Big money at stake

Kenn Oliver
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HORSE RACING St. John's Racing and Entertainment hosts Atlantic Sire Stakes race today

It won't be business as usual at the St. John's Racing and Entertainment (STJRE) centre today. The facility will play host to an Atlantic Sire Stakes race, a first for Newfoundland and Labrador Harness Racing.

"It's for two-year-olds, which is the first year the horse is allowed to race," explains STJRE manager Brett Whelan.

It won't be business as usual at the St. John's Racing and Entertainment (STJRE) centre today. The facility will play host to an Atlantic Sire Stakes race, a first for Newfoundland and Labrador Harness Racing.

"It's for two-year-olds, which is the first year the horse is allowed to race," explains STJRE manager Brett Whelan.

"The horses that are racing are setting all the track records for two-year-old horses the last time we had an event."

STJRE came up with the idea, but with no government dollars funding racing in this province - provincial governments in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island each contribute $200,000 to the Atlantic Sires Stakes program - Atlantic Standardbred Breeders Association "threw some money" this way to help STJRE get their foot in the door.

The Atlantic Sires Stakes program has been promoting the sport of harness racing for over forty years, while showcasing the best young horses in the region.

The goal of the program is to ensure the sport of harness racing continues to grow and prosper, by promoting the breeding of standardbred horses in the Atlantic Provinces. The racing series also provides economic incentives to breed, buy and race horses in the Atlantic Provinces.

The Atlantic Sires Stakes program is open to two and three-year-old pacers and trotters that were sired by a stallion nominated to the Atlantic Sires Stakes in the applicable breeding year. There are six divisions in the racing series, which takes place at seven racetracks in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Whelan says today's races will be conducted like any Sunday, the only difference being stakes races.

"Our purse in the top class usually goes for $550 or so, but this race is going for $1,800.

"It's for the breeding program to make incentives for people to buy horses and stuff like that, because the amount of money that's spent every year on horses and feed is unbelievable."

The day is also serving as a fundraiser for the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Arthritis Society.

"It's a fair (type) event," says Whelan.

"We have a bouncy room, plinko games with prizes, fish ponds, and a whole bunch of stuff going on. We're going to have giddy-up races where the kids two each other on bikes instead of horses and have people wager for prizes. It's big family event."

The days gets underway, rain or shine, with a 2 p.m. post time and is expected to conclude by 6 p.m. Admission to the track is free, but games and activities will come with small charge. All proceeds will go towards the Arthritis Society.

Organizations: Standardbred Breeders Association, Arthritis Society

Geographic location: St. John's, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Atlantic Provinces Newfoundland and Labrador

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