by Garnet Barnsdale
There was a lot of buzz on social media last Sunday surrounding the track condition at Georgian Downs with all posters complaining that the surface was unacceptable, especially on a night where there were three divisions of Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Gold races for rookie trotting fillies.
It seems that on a night where the temperature was about 30 degrees Celsius and no rain, the track surface was more like mud despite being rated as “fast”. That didn’t sit well with the participants. “In my opinion, the track surface at Georgian Downs last night was absolutely terrible,” tweeted veteran driver Chris Christoforou. “13 of the 25 Gold fillies made breaks and I’m surprised it wasn’t more. Ridiculous, I felt bad for the fillies and their connections #noexcuses.”
“I don’t think I raced on a worse track surface than I did tonight @GeorgianDowns should be ashamed of themselves for the condition of their race track; disgraceful” tweeted horseman Dustin Jones,” Dan Clements replied with “I said the same thing a couple of weeks ago. Not the same place it used to be.” That tweet by Clements brought this response from WEG driver Jody Jamieson: “Everyone keeps saying the same thing but nothing ever gets fixed.”
Korina Mclean agreed in a Facebook post then added this comment: “It was almost as deep as the sand ring I ride my jumping horse in. Horses were running left right and center tonight.”
A question was posed to the @GeorgianDowns twitter account asking for a comment on the complaints to which this response was sent from the @FlamboroDowns account: “There is a process to follow, there are horseman representatives that we work through and rest assured we are.”
So I asked Brian Tropea – general manager of Ontario Harness Horseman Association (OHHA) — if he had been contacted by a track representative and he said he hasn’t. Tropea said that he got some calls in the middle of the week from horsemen following Sunday’s card complaining about the track condition and noted that it was telling that some of them had been posting on Twitter and Facebook.
“We had some people that spoke out on social media about it that never say anything about anything,” he said. “It obviously must have been quite bad for those people to put their names out there on social media.”
Tropea said he is going to follow up on the horsemen’s complaints and said he found it strange that there were no notes about the track condition or an allowance mentioned in the official AGCO report.
“We’ll definitely ask the Alcohol and Gaming Commission if they’ve done any investigation into it,” he said. “The Ontario Racing Commission several years ago spent a lot of time, money and effort to go around to racetracks and meet with maintenance people and the horse people and track management to come up with minimum standards on how racetracks should be maintained and unfortunately, in this case, it looks like there was a failure in the process somewhere.”
Tropea added that the problem may be systemic. “There used to be an art to maintaining a track and we had specialized trackmen,” Tropea remarked. “Now we have guys that know how to drive a tractor.”