Jan 01,2019Storm Dafoe
Century Downs Racetrack and Casino opened its doors in the spring of 2015, as a completely new gaming entertainment facility and racetrack, boasting a world class racing facility and an oval of 51/2 Furlongs. Laying less than one mile north of the city limits of Calgary and cradled in the main corridor between Calgary and Edmonton just off the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, Century Downs‘ location lends itself to the amelioration of horse racing within Alberta, and by extension, the horse racing community of Canada.
After nearly a 120 year run, in 2006, Stampede Park Racetrack abandoned standardbred racing. Two years later, the thoroughbreds followed. For nearly a decade, drivers, jockeys, trainers, grooms, and enthusiasts became nomads and the uncertainty as to what the next season would hold or if there would be a next season, held for nearly eight years. However, on April 25, 2015, the sound of hooves thundered back into the heart of southern Alberta. Beyond the wind-blown viewing apron and a casino brimming with spectators, standardbred horses and their drivers lined up and officially marked the beginning of a new era as they burst through the starting gate.
On the heels of a three successful standardbred seasons, Century Downs reached an agreement with the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association of Alberta to run thoroughbreds in the fall of 2017. Experts from across North American took part in the track’s advancements including consultants from California and Manitoba as 8,000 tonnes of sand and mulch were laid over top of the standardbred track, and industry leaders from Kentucky installed the inner rail and chute rail required for thoroughbred racing. On September 23, 2017, with more than 400 horses in the stables, teams of trainers, exercisers, grooms, and jockeys settled into their new home and claimed a permanent place for thoroughbred racing in southern Alberta.
Upon the addition of thoroughbred racing, Century Downs has become a focal point for racing in Alberta and Western Canada. The Racetrack played host to the 2017 World Driving Championships as part of its annual Racing Festival celebrations, and in 2018, hosted Alberta Breeder’s Fall Classic- Alberta’s most prestigious horse racing event. The emergence of numerous annual events now also call Century Downs home, including Packwood Grand which celebrates the old world leisure and sophistication of horse racing to the World Chuckwagon Racing Finals which is set to premier in August, 2019.
While horse racing is colloquially referred to as the “Sport of Kings,“ that notion does not necessarily hold true for Century Downs. Horse racing in Alberta, for nearly a century and a half, has been carried on the backs of generations of blue-collared families and fueled by the spirit of horsemanship which still remains at the cultural core of the province. Century Downs is the newest chapter of that legacy. If one spends an afternoon at the racetrack, it does not take long to recognize that you are rubbing shoulders with second, third, and even fourth generation racing families who have in a sense found their way back home. In its four short years, Century Downs has revived thoroughbred, standardbred, and quarter horse racing in southern Alberta and now, nearly every week of the year, the Call to the Post sounds across the Century Downs Racetrack.