10/26/2014 4:30PM

Northlands Park meet closes with strong figures

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The total live mutuel handle showed solid gains at the 2014 Northlands Park meet that concluded Saturday. Despite racing five fewer days than in 2013, the total handle for the 73-day meet was up 11.9 percent at $20,070,669, compared with the $17,940,141 that was wagered over 78 days last year.

The all-sources daily average of $274,940 was up 19.5 percent, and the ontrack average, $85,742, was also significantly higher at 11.3 percent.

Chris Roberts, venue manager for Northlands, was thrilled with the meet and is looking forward to a bright future. A big reason for his optimism is the projected opening of Century Downs Racetrack and Casino in Balzac next spring. Balzac is a suburb of Calgary, which had a long tradition of horse racing at Stampede Park. There hasn’t been racing at Stampede Park since 2008, though.

According to Paul Ryneveld, general manager at Century Downs, the casino is on schedule to open next spring, with the possibility of a Standarbred meet beginning in April.

“There is a fair bit of optimism in Alberta right now,” said Roberts. “It’s a welcome change. Horsepeople of both breeds have been through some hard times over the past decade.  With Century Downs not being in a position to offer Thoroughbred racing until 2016, we’re looking at a 77-day meet next year beginning on May 1 and running until the end of October. ”

Rico Walcott was the leading rider for the fourth straight year with 141 wins, more than doubling the total of Scott Williams, who finished second in the standings with 70.

Greg Tracy dominated the trainers’ standings with 92 wins, 49 ahead of Rod Cone, who finished second with 43 wins.

One of the highlights at the meet was trainer Joan Petrowski winning her 1,000th race.