Cup Card Crushes Ontario Betting Record At Mohawk

Written By Dave Briggs on June 22, 2022 - Last Updated on June 23, 2022
Pebble Beach and Todd McCarthy winning Saturday's $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The track set a betting handle record of more than $6.3 million on the card.

A great card of harness racing and a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Hi-5 wager were major factors in driving a record Ontario sports betting handle of more than $6.3 million on Saturday (June 18) at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

But Bill McLinchey, Woodbine’s director of standardbred racing, said a return to normalcy for Canada’s premier harness racing track was also a major factor.

Saturday’s stakes-filled race card, highlighted by the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup for the continent’s best 3-year-old pacers, was returning to its usual June slot after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forced the race to move to August in 2020 and September in 2021. McLinchey said:

“It was great to be able to have an event again, having the North America Cup back in its traditional spot and being able to have a strong undercard of stakes… I think it was just a night of great racing and I don’t know if we can put together a much better card.

“It’s exciting that people are excited to see our races and wanting to play the races. It shows that when you put on a good card of racing like that, that’s what the fans yearn for and they want to bet.”

Great horses and enthusiastic bettors helped the Campbellville, ON track obliterate its previous handle record by some $700,000.

Nearly $2 million bet on Jackpot Hi-5

Woodbine Mohawk Park was more than $1 million shy of its all-time wagering record of $5.6 million set in 2020 heading into Saturday’s final race of the night.

But race 13 featured a mandatory payout of the track’s Jackpot Hi-5 pool that had a carryover of nearly $550,000. When bettors poured $1.8 million of additional money into that race, it pushed the night’s total handing over the $6.3 million mark.

Winning horseplayers received a return of $2,228.18 for a $0.20 ticket.

McLinchey said:

“When we talked about (betting) targets going into it, we had a target for the first 12 races and then what the mandatory payout would be. So, I was really hoping to get over $4 million and then plus $1.5 million on the mandatory payout (in race 13).”

The track also benefitted from having three separate Pick-5 wagers on the card that brought in just over $437,000. Betting on the Pepsi North America Cup race itself was nearly $580,000 (up 7.8% from 2021). Wagering on the undercard stakes was up 23% from 2021.

That Woodbine Mohawk Park set a wagering record while in competition with its chief harness racing rival, the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, and a night card of thoroughbred racing at Churchill Downs, was particularly satisfying, McLinchey said.

“Obviously, the least amount of competition is better, but I was quite happy it still was a record knowing that we were up against the Meadowlands and Churchill.”

Couldn’t come at a better time for horse racing

The betting news couldn’t come at a better time for Ontario horse racing. The Woodbine Entertainment Group, which operates Woodbine Mohawk Park as well as thoroughbred racing’s Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, has concerns about the impact of the province’s open sports betting market on the province’s horse racing industry.

Ontario is home to 15 horse racing tracks — 12 of them are harness racing tracks, with Woodbine Mohawk Park being the biggest.

McLinchey said he hopes Saturday’s wagering bodes well for the summer. He said:

“I like to believe in momentum. I think (record wagering) builds up the momentum and keeps us going. So, I hope that all the eyes that were on us on Saturday continue to give us a watch all summer.”

After all, Saturday was just the beginning of great racing. A series of major stakes, including the Mohawk Million, Metro Pace, Canadian Pacing Derby, Maple Leaf Trot, Canadian Trotting Classic and more will be featured at Mohawk in September. Then, just before Halloween, Mohawk will play host to the Breeders Crown featuring 12 championship races over two nights.

Photo by New Image Media
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Written by
Dave Briggs

Before joining PlayOntario, Dave spent more than 25 years as a writer and editor, mainly covering horse racing in Canada. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Western University and was a 2018 inductee into the Communicators' Corner of the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Beyond a deep passion for family and music, Dave has a mostly-tragic, life-long love of Detroit sports teams. He lives in Port Stanley, Ontario with his wife and their beloved Vizsla named California.

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