Western Fair to Southern Hemisphere

Greg Gangle’s Down Under connections hope to pay off in a new market for The Raceway at The Western Fair District.

by Melissa Keith

The first Camluck Classic brought a deep group of pacers to The Raceway at The Western Fair District, and there was an undeniable Australian accent to the event. Some credit belongs to trainer Peter Tritton and his fan favourite, Bit Of A Legend N. The New Zealand-bred half-mile track specialist also happens to have won the final edition of the Molson Pace (2017) for his Australian-born conditioner (and was fifth Saturday in the newly-named edition won by Rockin Ron).

Greg Gangle, assistant racing manager for The Raceway, shared news of a further Down Under connection: SKY Racing would be distributing the Camluck Classic in the Southern Hemisphere — a first.

“One of the main reasons we switched our day from traditionally a Friday, to Saturday, was for that very reason: We wanted to get our product out to as many eyeballs and as many different markets as we possibly could,” he told HRU. (Australia traditionally regards Saturdays, when a Friday night Ontario card would air Down Under, as a thoroughbred timeslot, so a Saturday night in Ontario race that airs on an Australian Sunday morning is preferable for a harness import)

“We actually just got confirmation on that a few days ago. For a track of our stature to have our signature event offered to customers Down Under, and they can watch and wager on it… We’re absolutely thrilled just to have the exposure itself, let alone the gambling component.”

Handle figures from Down Under were not available prior to press time.

Gangle, who worked for Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) for eight years prior to his arrival at Western Fair, praised WEG for contributing the “resources and support” to allow for the international simulcast.

“When I first started here last year, one of the big things Greg Blanchard and I talked about was this very idea of getting the exposure Down Under,” he said. “Woodbine is doing it now, and when I visited Down Under, a couple of times, you’d wake up on Sunday mornings and you’d see Northfield, Yonkers, and The Meadowlands. I started saying at Woodbine, ‘Why aren’t we on here?’”

Woodbine at Mohawk Park was gradually made available to the international market, and now The Raceway at Western Fair is testing the waters.

Gangle was part of WEG’s communications and marketing department for four years, and then spent another four as a television commentator there. Why the move to the London track?

“The answer is simple: I’m quite content with my position in the industry, so number one is family.” Gangle’s long-term partner Anna Glide is from an Australian racing family; the couple wanted to raise their children and enjoy a calmer pace of life in Port Stanley, Ontario, about 30 minutes from the community where he grew up. Number two is, I wanted to get into management.”

Immersed in harness racing from childhood, Gangle said he became a pedigree buff early. Surprisingly, for a man of his multi-faceted career, he is only 31. “Sometimes I feel like I’m 61, because I got into the industry so young,” he said. Raised on a farm with a half-mile track on site, he attended the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program (RTIP), but a fateful phone call and minimal interest in thoroughbreds took him back to his home province before graduation.

“My first gig, fresh out of Arizona, was going to work for Harold Howe at the Harness Edge,” said Gangle. Howe recruited him after an unrelated phone conversation when Gangle was an intern. “I was not even beer-drinking age in the states, and I was going to Harrisburg, Lexington, the Hambletonian, North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, meeting Burke and Takter, you name it. That was my first year.”

Gangle had barely unpacked his hockey bag of belongings back in Ontario when his new employer bundled him back onto a plane. He and Howe were Harrisburg-bound, an experience that left the 19-year old “star struck” after introductions to icons like Jimmy Takter and John Campbell.

The Harness Edge was pioneering video in the coverage of harness racing at the time. “If I remember correctly, we were the first organization to ever really come out with that stuff on a daily, weekly basis,” said Gangle. The learning curve was steep: “[Howe] threw this book at me and it was ‘How to Edit a Video,’ and he said ‘Go to work.’ We bought the camera, we bought the tripod, we bought the microphones, and we started doing videos, doing test interviews and stuff like that, and I had to learn to edit the video, using software, so we got that down pat.” He would upload video to a dedicated broadcast database, not YouTube.

At age 22, Gangle joined the WEG team. Eight years later, it was time to diversify his skills even further: “When the management role came up here at Western Fair, I wanted to jump on it because now I’m dealing with simulcasting, mutuels, setting post times, talking about takeout, talking about the overall running of the racetrack, what’s working, what’s not, how to improve things.”

Seemingly small touches can be crucial ones, from a marketing and publicity perspective. Introducing “Camluck Classic” as the new name for the former Molson Pace was a well-considered move, said Gangle.

“Originally we were just thinking of generic name… Then there was a conversation with (director of racing) Greg Blanchard and (Western Fair Association CEO) Hugh Mitchell, and I believe it was Hugh who mentioned the idea of Camluck. We never really thought of a particular horse name, but it just clicked. Greg came back into my office and said, ‘What do you think of the ‘Camluck Classic?’”

It appealed to Gangle as a name that was easy to say, and memorable. “Seelster Farms was kind enough to sponsor it, and the rest is history,” Gangle said. “The fact Seelster Farms is just up the road and Camluck spent 23 years there… it’s just a name that I think will resonate in people’s minds for years to come.” The name “Camluck Classic” was approved within the hour after it was proposed.

Meanwhile, Gangle also has his mind on another major event this weekend. He and Anna are expecting their second child any day now… “Any day but Saturday,” he quipped.

Already the parents of a three-year-old daughter, Taylor, as of Saturday morning the plan was for Gangle and Glide to take in the Camluck Classic together at The Raceway.

“Anna’s doing terrific and will be here Saturday night, provide she’s feeling well. She’s a die-hard,” Gangle said.