Challenge Races Will Run in Ontario

Ajax Downs to run four Challenge races in 2014.

Q-Racing Journal

Ajax Downs.

The Bank of America Racing Challenge will return this summer to Ajax Downs.

The track in Ajax, Ontario, will run four Bank of America Racing Challenge races in 2014: the Bank of America Championship, John Deere Juvenile, Adequan Derby and one Maiden Challenge race.

AQHA and the Quarter Racing Owners Of Ontario Inc. have completed arrangements for the Challenge races. QROOI and the track still are putting the final touches on the agreement with the provincial government to continue racing in Ontario.

“We’re still navigating our way through the government recommendations to get to a finalized contract,” said Bob Broadstock, president of the QROOI. “But I think we’re going to have racing for a long time to come in Ontario. The Challenge program is going to be one of our focuses going forward. We are committed to the Challenge, and as long as nothing surprising happens, we’ll be racing at Ajax Downs this year.”

Broadstock spoke while in his truck after leaving a meeting with representatives of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Transitional Panel, which is tasked with restructuring racing in the province.

“I think we’re going to have a sustainable program,” he said. “By the time we’re done with the contract, we should have a five-year deal. It is still a big change from where we were before. Until something is signed and done, our people, our horsemen, are still nervous. They still want to see the contract finished, they want to know what the next five years look like. They’ve been told what it’s going to look like, but until it’s done and signed there is a certain amount of skepticism, and that is fully understandable. But the government has told us, OK, we understand what costs are involved, this is how we’re going to support you. To this point, we haven’t been told that anything is going to change that commitment for support, not anything at all. I fully believe that will get this done, we’ll sign a deal and be secured for five years. As soon as that happens, the industry will stabilize and get back to the growth model.”

The Bank of America Racing Challenge will be a major factor in the life and growth of the industry in Ontario.

“The Challenge races give us exposure North America-wide,” Broadstock said. “Some of our members have qualified and started in the races on Championship night. Especially with Prairie Meadows hosting the Challenge this year, we hope that more will do that, that we can get the four regional qualifiers to go down and race in the Championships. The program gives us some funding from AQHA and support for our program up here, and that’s very significant for us. We look to the Challenge to be one of the key elements for our growth in the future.”

Darrell Hare, the AQHA Director of the Racing Challenge, concurs with Broadstock’s view. Hare notes that the Ontario track is very important to the Quarter Horse racing industry as a whole.

“In the big picture, what’s most important is that the horsemen in Ontario have been in limbo, not knowing what’s going to happen,” Hare said. “The government panel finally came down with criteria for Ajax to go ahead and run racing. In that were specific provisions that they approved in order to provide money, and among those were the Challenge races, which are a very important part of the whole package. This lets the horsemen know that Ajax has gotten a lease on life to continue running for at least the next few years. Ajax is alive and well right now and they’re going to run races this year.”

“I think that the government really is behind there being a solution for all three breeds in Ontario,” Broadstock said. “We’re starting to put all the puzzle pieces together, but working with the government is a slow process. They do target having everything completed by April 1, but we might be done by the middle of February. It’s just a matter of getting something that we can agree to and the party on the other side can agree to. We’re working through right now. The government is reformulating how racing is going to work up here, so there is a lot of work already done and a lot still to do. They are working diligently to get something done and we hope to have it done as soon as possible. It’s just a matter of time.”

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, watch the AQHA Racing Newscast and visit www.aqharacing.com.