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Century Downs Racetrack and Casino brings the long-lived passion of horse racing back to the city of Calgary. Starting on April 25th, Century Downs will have live races Saturdays, Sundays and holidays starting at 2:00 pm, and then Friday evenings in the summer months.
Century Downs Racetrack and Casino features a racetrack that is a 5 1/2 Furlong oval for Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing with two chutes (7.5 Furlong/550 Yards and 4 Furlong/870 Yards) for the Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Thoroughbred racing will commence in 2016.
The United Horsemen of Alberta, formed in 2003, had hoped to open the horse track by 2007, but financial difficulties repeatedly delayed the project. A partnership with Colorado-based Century Casinos gave the venture needed financial backing for construction.
"It's been a long pregnancy," quipped Max Gibb, vice-chairman of the United Horsemen of Alberta (UHA) and Century Downs. "It's followed the ups and downs of our province of doing development," said Gibb, "but at the end of the day we're going to have horses running around there and it will be a rejuvenation of breeding and training and transporting and all the good things about horse racing."
When harness races begin April 25, it will be the first equine racing in the Calgary region in seven years. Thoroughbred races will start in 2016. As a Class A track it's required to run 100 days of racing each year.
Edmonton's Gerry Hudon, a horse owner and harness driver, said a return to the Calgary area is welcomed within the industry.
"We've been all over the place. We've been in Grande Prairie, Lacombe, Edmonton; nothing settled," he said. "Now we're settled into a spot that can now become like it used to be when we were in Calgary at Stampede Park."
Bleacher seating will accommodate 300 spectators. Initially the site will have one barn for 100 horses. A second is expected in July with capacity for 200 horses. A third barn, for another 200 horses, will be ready next year.
"It's very exciting for our horse racing fans. We've been out of the Calgary market for a long time," said Shirley McClellan, chief executive of Horse Racing Alberta. "People in this area have missed it and they've looked forward with great anticipation to the casino opening today and on the 25th of April we'll have our first parimutuel racing on this new track.