Harness racing is back at Fraser Downs.
The literal three-month sprint for horses, drivers, and horsemen began Sept. 14. Each week will see two race nights held at the track in Cloverdale, both Thursday and Friday. The fall race season will wrap Dec. 15.
Kelly MacMillan, president of Harness Racing B.C. (HRBC), said his organization worked hard to get something positive rolling during the spring season at Fraser Downs Racetrack. He said it was a combined effort between HRBC and the horsemen.
“Our horsemen have continued to put their heads down and just keep at it,” MacMillan said in a press release. “I guess that’s the biggest factor that has moved us forward, the dedication and resilience of everyone involved.”
MacMillan noted the handle in the spring season was up 18 per cent over the previous year. He expects it to continue to rise as Fraser Downs will be running a new HD simulcast that will be shown in casinos across North America, thus allowing more bettors to watch the races.
Dawn Lupul, B.C. Racebook’s new manager of racing and communications at both Fraser Downs and Hastings Racecourse, said one of the biggest changes coming to the fall season will see only seven horses starting at the gate with the eighth starter being in the trailer position. She said this will help increase the competitiveness of the harness races.
“There was always a trailer but with nine horses,” Lupul said. “Now the fields will be limited to eight starters and the number eight will be the trailer instead of nine.”
She said stakes races will still have eight horses with one trailer as the number nine.
“It provides a more competitive race for the benefit of the horses,” she added. “Everyone I’ve talked to at Fraser Downs has been super excited. We’re ready to promote our product to new and existing fans worldwide.”
Lupul noted record-setting driver Brandon Campbell plans to compete regularly during the fall race schedule. Campbell won the spring season driving title after posting 92 wins in 216 starts.
Campbell also finished the spring season with five-wins on the final day of racing.
Post times on Thursdays for the fall season are 7 p.m. and post times on Fridays will be 6 p.m. Friday night racing moves back to 7 p.m. on Oct. 27.