Canadian-bred horse Messier enters the weekend as the third favourite with morning line odds of 8-1 at the Kentucky Derby.
The 3-year-old colt is among 20 entrants in the annual Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7. Other favourites are Zandon, Epicenter and Mo Donegal.
With the event just around the corner, PlayCanada looks at available horse race betting options at racetracks across the country.
Wanna bet on the Kentucky Derby? Better have HPIbet
It’s quite an intriguing year for Ontario and betting on horse racing and the Kentucky Derby.
Offering fixed odds on horse racing is illegal in Canada, so you’re not going to find any lines at licensed online sportsbooks in Ontario. Certainly not as of April 4.
While some Ontario sportsbooks offer European racing markets, when it comes to horse racing in Ontario, that’s all she wrote. That’s because the horse racing industry pressed to keep sportsbooks from offering fixed-odds wagering during the debates around bill C-218.
However, betting is available via Woodbine Entertainment Group, which operates two tracks, a casino and off-track betting locations in Ontario.
Woodbine’s betting company, HorsePlayer Interactive, holds the Canadian rights for betting on horse racing. So, the only legal way to bet on the Derby in Canada is through HPIbet.com. HPI also offers a companion app, Dark Horse Bets.
(As an aside, we’ve heard the app is the way to go for those new to race wagering.)
With one of the biggest races in the year just ahead, Ontarians have limited legal betting options. And, users used to betting on grey market books are likely to find fewer options than before regulations kicked in.
Limited betting options in Ontario; Woodbine tracks to show the big race
Ontario’s horse racing industry wants an equal chance to compete in the province’s new gambling sector. But the changes required to open the door are slow to come.
As our sister site PlayOntario reported in April, Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson expressed his frustration about not getting an equal chance for horse racing to compete in the province’s newly regulated market.
Despite being left behind as online gaming launched in the province last month, Lawson said he’s trying to remain optimistic that horse racing will soon have the opportunity to take part.
In the meantime, Ontarian bettors have minimal betting options for Kentucky Derby.
Woodbine Racetrack intends to integrate pari-mutuel racing into licensed online sportsbooks in Ontario. But they are currently working with the government agencies on how that looks.
But, as Jamie Dykstra, Woodbine’s communications director, told PlayCanada, Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park will be screening the big race.
“Woodbine Mohawk Park will be opening its doors early at 10:30 a.m. and Mohawk Harvest Kitchen is available for dinner (we also have our live racing Saturday night starting at 7:10 p.m.). At Woodbine Racetrack, we have live racing at 1:10 p.m. and the Woodbine Club Restaurant is available for booking lunch reservations. Both tracks will also have our simulcast viewing areas open.”
Where to watch the Derby in the rest of Ontario and Canada
While Woodbine and other commercial operators wait on the Ontario and Lottery Corporation to deliver a strategy for retail sportsbooks, most Canadian racetracks have avoided making a big deal of the Derby this year.
PlayCanada checked in with horse-racing venues to see what’s up for Derby day. We’ll continue to update the story as more details roll in.
Fort Erie Race Track
“Our racing season doesn’t begin until May 31, so we do not have a lot going on at our venue this time of year,” said Antonietta Culic, manager, marketing & corporate communications, Fort Erie Race Track.
“Our Racebook simulcast room is open, and we open up additional spaces for customers to come and watch and wager, but we do not have a special event.”
Century Mile Edmonton
Century Mile Edmonton is hosting draws and giveaways during the race. Its buffet restaurant, The Finish Line, is out of reservations for Derby day.
The Kentucky Derby falls on the second day of live thoroughbred racing at Century Mile, so the track expects a hectic day said marketing and guest services manager Marina L.
“We will be doing some draws and giveaways that involve entrants selecting the horse that they think will win the Kentucky Derby. Once the race is finished, we will select winners out of the group who selected the winning horse.”
Red Shores Charlottetown in Charlottetown, PEI
Things weren’t very different farther east, with no special events scheduled but multiple viewing options.
Red Shores Charlottetown & Summerside marketing coordinator, Brianna Ling, told PlayCanada:
“We are pleased to offer the Kentucky Derby to our customers on Derby Day in our simulcast theatre. We also plan to show the Kentucky Derby during our live race presentation Saturday night.”