Dec 012015

HBPA Alberta

Recap of 2015 Northlands Race Meet and 2016 Outlook


2015 Thoroughbred Meet Recap

The 2015 Northlands thoroughbred meet began May 1 and concluded October 24. During the meet 1.75 days were lost due to track conditions. The following Schedule denotes wagering, race days, races carded, starters and all information with respect to purse payments.

ON TRACK $6,067,428 $6,259,205 ($191,777) (3.20)
OFF TRACK $15,407,862 $13,811,464 $1,596,398 10.40
TOTAL $21,475,290 $20,070,669 $1,404,621 6.60
DAILY AVERAGE $286,337 $274,941 $11,396 4.15
LIVE RACE DAYS 74.25 73 1.25 1.71
RACES CARDED 585 603 (18) (6.50)
TOTAL STARTERS 4,220 4,524 (304) (5.10)
AVERAGE STARTERS/RACE 7.21 7.50 (0.29) (1.49)
OVERNITE PAYMENTS $5,689,364 $5,861,315 ($171,951) (2.93)
STAKE PAYMENTS $2,045,000 $2,006,200 $38,800 1.89
PARTICIPATION FEES $143,280 $179,400 ($36,120) 20.10
ALTA BRED BONUS $783,308 $472,508 $310,800 65.80
$8,660,952   $8,519,423 $141,529 1.67
OVERNITE & PARTICIPATION FEES $78,554 $82,749 ($4,195) (5.10)

Highlights for the meet:

In 2015 we raced 1.25 more days than in 2014, however, there were 18 less races carded during the meet – a reflection of the decrease in horse population. The average starters per race decreased to 7.21 from 7.50 in 2014.

Wagering on the product continued a positive trend and performed to expectations with the overall total amounting to $21.475 million compared to $20.070 million last year which was an increase of $1.404 million or 6.6%. There was an increase of nearly      $1.6 million off track with on-track wagering decreasing slightly by $191,000. The Northlands management was successful in selling our signal to outsiders and is obvious that our product is one that customers will wager on.

The two (2) biggest events of the racing calendar were again; the Canadian Derby and Alberta Fall Classic Day. This year a total of $1,344,537 was wagering on the Derby card which is an increase of $87,000. Wagering on this year’s Alberta Fall Classic day totaled $483,165 which was virtually unchanged from the previous year.

Since less races were run in 2015, overnite payments and participation fees decreased by $208,000. Average overnite payments totaled $78,554 this year compared to $82,749 in 2014. The bright spot was the increased payments to owners of Alberta bred horses finishing 1, 2 or 3 in qualifying races. This year payments made directly from the Breed Improvement Fund of $783,308 increased from $472,508 in 2014. Qualifying Alberta breds were rewarded with a 37% bonus this year vs. 24% last year.

In 2015 the Thoroughbred purse grant from HRA totaled $5,274,000 compared to $3,680,941 in 2014. Even though we received an additional $1.6 million resulting from the opening the REC at Century Downs of racing in Calgary after a seven (7) year hiatus, a purse increase was not possible. A financial policy change instituted by HRA for 2015 resulted in a decrease of the percentage allocation to “A” Thoroughbred Horsemen from 43.5% to 38.5% of the total purse grant. The Standardbred breed as well as Community racing were the recipients of the 5% lost by this Association. Had we received the same percentage allocation as had been received from Day 1 of HRA’s existence, the additional $700,000 would have translated into a 10 – 15% increase in overnite payments. In 2015 The HBPA of Alberta did not dip into its rainy day fund to support purses as was the case in 2014 when slightly over $700,000 was injected internally to keep purses status quo. Your Board and management continue to operate cautiously bearing in mind that funds on hand may be required yet again down the road if there is an HRA funding shortfall.

Thankfully the HBPA/Northlands Arbitration process came to a mutually agreed upon conclusion. Northlands did in fact make certain infrastructure improvements to their Facility. Not all of our requests for capital investment materialized, but in our view we did make gains in this area during 2015 with additional projects to be undertaken in 2016.

Changes to federal regulations, protocol, and fees have made sourcing of foreign workers to work on the backstretch virtually impossible.  To date industry stakeholders have been unsuccessful in affecting change to the current rules and regulations. As previously stated, not having qualified workers employed at the racetrack is one of the greatest risks we face going forward.

Finally, a new Board of Directors was elected by the membership in August. We welcome new Owner Directors Norm Castiglione, Linda Smith and Trainer Directors  Joan Petrowski, Tim Rycroft. Dr. Steve Smith, DVM was appointed by the Board to serve as President for the three (3) year term.


2016 Outlook

As of this writing there are a number of “balls in the air” which makes short and long-term planning very difficult exercises. These issues must be finalized prior to securing a future for the Alberta Thoroughbred industry:

  • As the majority of you know the Gaming Revenue Agreement (MOU) with the Provincial Government expires on March 31, 2016. During the past two (2) years HRA has assured the industry that an extension to subject MOU would be executed. Suffice to say that as of this date it has not happened. We understand that HRA continues to pursue this path and they are optimistic that an extension will occur with the industry being notified as soon as it happens. Without the sharing of gaming revenue by the industry stakeholders generated at the Racing Entertainment Centers (RECs), the current business model is not sustainable.
  • HRA Purse funding is not known at this time.  Funding and the extension of the MOU go hand in hand.
  • The Northlands/HBPA Racing Contract expires on December 31, 2016. The HBPA is looking to Northlands for a long term commitment to live horse racing so that we can once again enter into a long term contract and provide our members certain stability.
  • Century Casino opened for business on April 1, 2015 and reports are that the slot floor is performing as expected. The first standardbred meet recently concluded.   Century and the HBPA are in contract negotiations to race at Century Downs in the fall of 2016. Certain infrastructure additions to the Facility such as but not limited to stabling must be in place prior to thoroughbred racing being conducted at Century Downs.     The positive derived from negotiations thus far is that the Operator is most anxious to conduct thoroughbred racing.

The current expectation is that training will commence in Edmonton on or about March 15 as was the case this spring. Our Northlands race meet will commence on May 6. At this time the number of live days that will be raced at Northlands has not been determined. Again, this Association will race a fall meet at Century Downs subject to construction and completion of various infrastructure items which have been detailed in the Racing Agreement.

In September, 2015 the HBPA implemented an incentive to owners of lower claiming horses to assist wintering them for a return to racing at Northlands in 2016. Owners meeting certain criteria will be eligible for a maximum $1,000 payment. Please refer to the details of the Program which were posted on our website on September 17, 2015.

We will keep the membership informed as developments occur. As is customary, please address any questions, comments or concerns to the undersigned.


  • Mat Monaco – HBPA of Alberta

December 1, 2015

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