Updated on 09/16/2011 8:17AM

Woodbine seals Hastings deal

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After close to two years of negotiations, the Woodbine Entertainment Group has completed the acquisition of the Pacific Racing Association, operators of Hastings Park Racecourse.

With the acquisition, under its wholly owned subsidiary Hastings Entertainment, Woodbine will control more than half of all wagering on horse racing in Canada.

The new company did not take long to make its presence felt, firing seven employees Tuesday.

Among those dismissed were Brian Pound, the track's media manager; Michael Slaney, director of finance; and J. Curtis Linnell, the simulcast and technical services director.

Attendance and mutuel handle has been in a steady decline since the Pacific Racing Association took over the operation of Hastings Park in 1994. Woodbine Entertainment's chairman and chief executive officer, David Willmot, expressed confidence, however, that the new company would be able to "build upon the breeding and racing heritage in the province and turn horse racing into a major-league sporting and entertainment activity."

Phil Heard, general manager of Hastings Park, will become president and general manager of Hastings Entertainment. Jim Ormiston, executive vice president of Woodbine Entertainment, will become chairman of the new company.

Dan Kenny, a bloodstock agent, has been hired as a special advisor. Kenny, who lives in Lexington, Ky., will make recommendations to rejuvenate the racing and breeding side of the industry. He was instrumental in bringing B.C.'s all-time leading sire, Bold Laddie, to the province.