Grand River Raceway celebrates opening of new 5/8 mile track

Giddy: 'It really is a beautiful thing and an amazing asset for the industry'

ELORA – Grand River Raceway marked a significant milestone in the facility’s history on Wednesday with the official opening of its new 5/8 mile racetrack, one of only five 5/8 tracks in Ontario.

Key stakeholders, community members and racing enthusiasts were in attendance for the ribbon cutting, celebrating the culmination of the project that began last winter, officials stated.

The project was made possible through support from Ontario Racing and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. The project was engineered by GEI Consultants in Kitchener.

GEI project manager Steve Conway was also involved in the construction of the raceway’s original track.

Conway said GEI did all the preliminary surveying, the base plans and the final design for the 5/8 mile track, and it consulted Dan and Greg Coon, renowned track experts, on grading and track alignment.

“The art in building the track is essentially in the alignment and the grading, but also in the final surface,” Conway said.

GEI wrote and administered the contract with local contractor James Thoume Construction Ltd. of Ariss.

“They did a fantastic job, they showed up with a great attitude,” Conway said. “They were dedicated to get this done.”

At the ribbon cutting, GRR facilities manager Doug McCaig, who oversaw the day-to-day construction of the track, was thanked by officials for his leadership throughout the construction phase.

McCaig said the larger track allows horses to go faster and that larger horses are able to get around the six corners of the 5/8 mile track easier than the eight corners of a 1/2 mile track.

Driver Brett MacDonald said the new track “carries a lot of speed. Before when they used to draw six, seven or eight, even if you were the best, if you got away at the back, you couldn’t win.

“The way the track is now, if you’re the best, and you get away at the back, you can (win), so it opens it right up.”

The track expansion elevates Grand River Raceway’s live racing to a top harness racing destination in Ontario, raceway manager Jenna MacDonell said.

“The increase to five-eighths of a mile track should draw higher-quality horses, thereby boosting overall betting activity,” she said.

“This expansion is expected to result in larger field sizes and more opportunity for horses to make moves in the mile and win, a key factor desired by bettors.”

McDonell added, “Response from the horse industry has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The bigger track gives horses from every post position a better chance to win and that makes the trainers and drivers happy.”

The raceway’s vice president of operations Katie Giddy said she “didn’t fully appreciate how large the track was and what the expansion looked like until Doug McCaig took me on tour in a truck around the track.

“It really is a beautiful thing and an amazing asset for the industry.”

Officials said the 5/8 mile track is a valuable training ground for local drivers and trainers, many of whom previously had to travel to Woodbine Mohawk Park.

The expansion also broadens the facility’s accessibility to the racing community, officials added.