Woodbine Smashes All-Time Canadian Horse Racing Betting Record

Written By Dave Briggs on August 21, 2023 - Last Updated on September 28, 2023
Woodbine Racetrack, 2023 King's Plate

Sunday was the king of all betting days in Canadian horse racing.

Woodbine Racetrack took in over $18.1 million in horse betting handle for its King’s Plate card. It is the most ever wagered on a single Canadian horse racing card.

“It was a huge day in so many ways,” Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson told PlayCanada. “There was excellent racing and a buzz in the crowd. The demographic of the crowd was… predominantly young people. It was amazing. It was great. They had a party. The patio was fun. The music was fun. It was a happening thing.”

Sunday’s event at the Toronto racetrack was sold out six days in advance. Many that couldn’t get into the track visited the adjacent Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto, the largest casino in Canada.

Chuck Keeling, the executive vice president of stakeholder engagement, community and social responsibility for Great Canadian Entertainment, told PlayCanada they were expecting a huge crowd on Sunday due to the King’s Plate and the event delivered.

“We expected many in attendance for the King’s Plate to venture over to our property that is adjacent to and contiguous with Woodbine, and that was certainly the case,” Keeling said. “As Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto continues to mature with the opening of our 5,000-person entertainment venue later this year, we fully expect further synergies in the future with Woodbine’s thoroughbred racing seasons, as well as their big event days like the King’s Plate.”

Many things drove record betting, including bet365

Lawson said horse racing’s arrival on a legal sports betting platform helped drive total betting to new heights.

Just a few days before the King’s Plate, horse racing became available for betting via the Bet365 Ontario horse racing.

“On bet365, I can’t go into the numbers, but… it’s clear to me that those were not horsepeople betting on bet365, those were sports bettors on bet365,” Lawson said. “So all that wagering was incremental, and, yes, that incremental wagering likely pushed us over the top from from the previous all time record.”

Lawson said other factors leading to the record handle included:

  • Del Mar Racetrack near San Diego cancelling its Sunday card due to Hurricane Hilary.
  • A mandatory payout of the Jackpot Hi-5 bet that had a carryover of $337,494 going into the card.
  • A mandatory payout of the Power Pick 6 wager.
  • A 17-horse field for the King’s Plate. Bigger fields drive wagering.
  • A full house at Woodbine.
King's Plate 2023
A full field of 17 helped drive wagering (Michael Burns / Woodbine)

Total racing handle surpassed the record of just over $18 million bet on the 2019 Queen’s Plate card.

This year, the Queen’s Plate was renamed the King’s Plate in honour of King Charles III’s ascension to the throne. The race was first held in Toronto in 1860 and has been tied to the British royal family for all 164 years.

Betting just on the King’s Plate race itself was the second most in history. Punters wagered $4.4 million on the Plate won by Mark Casse-trained, Patrick Husbands-ridden Paramount Prince. Woodbine did set a record for just the King’s Plate win pool, which reached $1.1 million.

Paramount Prince (Patrick Husbands) winning the King’s Plate in front of a full house at Woodbine (Michael Burns / Woodbine)

Lawson bullish on the future of horse racing

Lawson said horse racing’s arrival on bet365 and the fact it will land on other legal Ontario sports betting apps in 2024, “helps create an awareness and buzz about horse racing and people will show up and those people will be young people because a lot of those people are on sports betting apps.”

He said young people’s desire to be social bolds well for horse racing’s future on big event days. He’s been seeing a lot of first-timers to horse racing at Woodbine’s Stella Artois Terrace this summer.

“There’s no question in my mind that society, generally, and particularly the younger generation loves to get out and experience things. I think it’s an impact and effect of the pandemic… They love experiences, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. I see it a little bit at the Blue Jays games. You see the Taylor Swift phenomena. This may be stretching it a little bit, but even the Barbie movie phenomenon is part of this whole generation getting out and having fun and dressing up and experiencing things. That’s a little bit post-pandemic and we certainly felt that this year.

“There’s just such an overwhelming need for this… and it really does feel like this race is growing growing in stature, which is pretty cool.”

Photo by Michael Burns / Woodbine
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Canada with emphasis on the casino, sports betting and horse racing sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Canada and Michigan.

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