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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Leamington Raceway kicks-off first of 13 race dates with record-breaking bets

Leamington Raceway kicks-off first of 13 race dates with record-breaking bets

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

When Essex resident Mark Williams was just 16-years-old, he found himself falling in love with the sport of horse harness racing, with a driver's eye view.

At 65-years-of-age, Williams still loves the excitement of being a jockey, and promoting harness horse racing.

“It’s fun, it’s exciting,” he said of sitting in the sulky.

As the President of the Lakeshore Horse Racing Association, which organizes the races in Leamington, Williams gets to combine his passion of racing with his passion of organizing and promoting the 13 race day roster at the Leamington Raceway.

On Sunday, the first of those 13 race dates was hosted at the Leamington Raceway, and Williams was excited to see the support.

Not only were there plenty of fans in the stands, cheering on their favourite horse in each of the 10 races, Williams noted it was an all time record-breaking day in the history of the Leamington Raceway, with just under $74,000 in bets made online and onsite.

“It was truly mind-boggling,” he said. “It is satisfying. I have a great, great crew of people who have spent a lot of time and effort to pull this off over the years. I am happy for all of them and all their efforts. It’s a great warming feeling in your heart to have that happen and to know Windsor-Essex County people continue to come out every year to support the horse racing program.”

Though Williams noted the Lakeshore Horse Racing Association is grateful for those 13 race dates, they are hopeful to get more in the future. They are doing what they can to be able to extend their season to give more opportunity for local racers and to those who come to the area to participate in those Leamington races.

Over the years, a lot of effort has gone into creating Sunday race days that are not only fan orientated, but family orientated, offering kids activities to entertain youth who may be onsite as they enjoy watching the horses make their way around the racetrack at top speeds. The September 3 event has been designated Kids’ Day, while August 20 will be Derby Hat Day, August 27 Sunday Fun Day, and September 10 National Caretaker Day.

The races are all about “horse people putting on races for horse people,” he said, noting they are aware the best way they can do that is by making the best experience possible for the fans.

Williams considers himself lucky to be able to work in the industry he is passionate about, and that was something that his dad, Stan Williams – whose photo adorns the wall of fame in London – instilled in him, as well. Williams noted his dad often spoke about how lucky they were to be able to have a place in this industry for their entire lives, where many only have the opportunity to do part time or in retirement.

He also taught his son the importance of being polite and kind.

Next summer, Williams is looking to introduce Rocking the Royalty at the Leamington Raceway, who is currently a two-year-old and has started training. He said the colt has plenty of attitude, which he gets from his dam, and he can’t wait to see him racing.

Looking ahead over the next several weeks, Williams is excited to host the remaining race dates, and is hopeful the community support continues to be strong as it was during the first race day. Racing at the Leamington Raceway will continue every Sunday until November 5. Post time is at 1:00pm.

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