The stall doors were closed on another season of pari-mutuel racing at Evergreen Park on Sunday and there were a lot of winners.
Tyler Walker was one and Riley Rycroft another, but The Horses At Evergreen Park also came out of the 25-day season looking pretty good too.
“We’re up significantly in our handle; we’re up significantly in our attendance from last year again and overall, it’s just been a wonderful race season and we’ve been very fortunate with the weather,” said Dan Gorman, general manager at Evergreen Park.
“I think we’ve made it a focus on making it more of an overall family event out here with the bouncy castles and sand piles and everything else. Our demographics (average age) are down quite a bit, so we’ve got a much younger crowd that is coming out and it is a very inexpensive, no charge night – there’s a no admittance charge to come and enjoy an outdoor activity in the Grande Prairie-area. It’s just a buzz. Horse racing excitement seems to be growing in our area.”
Walker, in a battle with Larris Allen right to the wire, ended up the top jockey with 25 wins, 29 seconds and 28 thirds and $151,174 in purse money for the owners he raced for. Allen finished with 25 wins, 29 seconds and 22 thirds and galloped off with $157,611 in purse money.
Rycroft - from a local family whose horse racing pedigree stretches back for decades and includes owners, trainers and jockeys - was easily the top trainer at The Horses At Evergreen Park with 24 firsts, 13 seconds and seven thirds and $115,581 in earnings.
William Leech was second with 12 wins, nine seconds and 12 thirds and $60,152 in earnings.
The season was highlighted by the Alberta Derby and Grande Prairie Derby on July 19, as well as the Brekkaas Vacuum & Tank Race For the Cure - Paint The Park Pink on Aug. 9.
It was the first time the Alberta Derby was held in the area. Gorman said the provincial race attracted several young spectators.
“We were just thrilled to be able to host the Alberta Derby out at Evergreen Park this summer and we already have plans in place next year for an improved and larger purse. That particular derby day, the Alberta Derby and the Grande Prairie Derby, showcased some of the A and B horses in Alberta,” said Gorman.
Though he said horse numbers were down this year, Gorman noted the Gordon Badger Stadium track remains highly regarded.
“All of the horsemen, the trainers, the owners and the jockeys all say it’s one of the finer tracks in North America and they’re always happy to come here,” he said.
Last weekend, for the first time, a survey was conducted asking race fans various questions that will, hopefully, help Evergreen Park in its decision-making in the future.
Gorman said park staff have already begun to look ahead to next year at potential enhancements and changes.
PRESIDENT'S BALL (Oct. 24)
The annual Grande Prairie Regional College President's Ball goes in the ENTREC Centre at Evergreen Park on Saturday, Oct. 24. For information on the event and ticket availablity visit their website at: https://www.gprc.ab.ca/community/presidents_ball/