With historic year ahead, race season begins at Summerside Red Shores

·2 min read
Horses pace by the Summerside sign at Red Shores.  The racetrack will mark 135 years of racing this year.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Horses pace by the Summerside sign at Red Shores. The racetrack will mark 135 years of racing this year. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

Public health rules mean the crowds are smaller, but there was a feeling of excitement as Red Shores Summerside began its live harness racing season on Victoria Day.

This will be it's second season operating under P.E.I.'s COVID-19 restrictions.

Lee Drake, manager of racing and broadcast for Red Shores, said it's great to be opening.

"I think it's a day of excitement, we're thankful," Drake said.

"There's nothing like going to the track."

Spectators watch one of the first races of the season in Summerside, P.E.I.
Spectators watch one of the first races of the season in Summerside, P.E.I. (Laura Meader/CBC)

He said Red Shores Summerside is following gathering rules and the facility is operating around 50 per cent capacity.

Drake said considering many other parts of Canada aren't allowing outdoor activities, Red Shores feels fortunate.

He said going to the track these days does require more planning. On opening day, outdoor spectators were limited to two pods of 50 people and if you want a spot, you usually have to reserve ahead of time.

Drake said last year they were trying to convince people to come to the track, but now they've shifted their business model to encourage people to watch the live streams and wager online.

"With COVID-19, our business model did shift and we've been working with our TV broadcast side of the business," Drake said.

Outdoor gathering restrictions limit spectator numbers to two pods of 50 people each.  Staff say opening day would normally attract much larger crowds.
Outdoor gathering restrictions limit spectator numbers to two pods of 50 people each. Staff say opening day would normally attract much larger crowds.(Laura Meader/CBC)

He said they've really worked to sharpen their presentation, betting models, and increasing who can see the races from Red Shores.

"You've got to try and stand out," he said.

Drake said the overall interest in Red Shores's harness racing has been good.

Drake said although the pandemic meant there were fewer in-person bets, total wagering was up at Red Shores — which has locations in Charlottetown and Summerside — by 15 per cent.

"It's phenomenal when you think we're in a pandemic," he said.

Historic year

The track will mark 135 years of racing this year, Drake said, and there are some special events planned.

"It's one of the oldest running racetracks," he said. "It's going to be an exciting summer."

Drake said he's hoping for relaxed protocols, if it is safe to do so. Ideally, he said they're hoping for another Atlantic bubble and bigger crowds to be allowed by sometime in June.

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