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Live pari-mutuel horse racing is a unique experience in the Peace Country . . . and for that matter the province and somewhat the entire country.

When you place a bet at The Horses At Evergreen Park this summer you are doing something that is available in only a handful of centres in Alberta.

Evergreen Park is one of only three Alberta cities that features an extended full season of pari-mutuel horse racing – Lethbridge and Edmonton being the others – and along with Edmonton is the only city in the province to offer an extended program in July and August.

The race season starts on Friday, July 11 and continues every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and holiday Monday, Aug. 4) until the final race on Sunday, August 24. There are 22 days of racing.

Evergreen Park, through the Pines Restaurant & Casino, is also the only venue in the Peace Country that offers off-track horse betting 364 days of the year. Horse enthusiasts can watch one of seven screens in the facility and place bets on horse races from around the world.

The fact the Pines also offers an outstanding menu of chef-inspired meals, 99 slot machines and VLTs is an added bonus for our guests. The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day.

This year, 2014, is the Year of the Horse and Evergreen Park is going to salute the horse and those horse people who have been equine-inclined as Grande Prairie celebrates its 100th anniversary.

One of the feature races of the season, in fact, is a salute to the 100th – the Grande Prairie Centennial Stakes being held Sunday, August 24. It is sponsored by the 100th Anniversary committee.

Another feature race is the Triple K Oilfield Services Grande Prairie Derby. It is being held on Sunday, July 20. Make sure you wear your fancy hat to that one! The Derby includes a VIP brunch that starts at 11 a.m. Order tickets online at: Care for a mint julep, madam?

On Sunday, August 10th we are going to Paint The Park Pink at the Brekkaas Vacuum & Tank Race For The Cure! Jockeys will be wearing pink silks that will be up for auction, there is going to be a pink horse (great photo op for the kids!) and WestJet has provided a trip for two anywhere they fly to be used for a fund-raiser for the event.

Xplornet has also jumped on board this year as sponsor of Xplornet Wallet Night. They are joining together with the Daily Herald-Tribune on that one. It goes Saturday, July 26 and the first 100 through the gates get a wallet with a betting coupon and Pines gift certificate inside.

Following are some numbers you might be interested in. After you read them you will understand how much an impact, economically and in other ways, the Horses At Evergreen Park has on Grande Prairie and the Peace Country.

Is horse racing fun? You bet! Enjoy the Horses At Evergreen Park 2014!

THE HORSES: For the 2014 season 480 horses have been registered. The daily cost to keep a race horse going is about $40 per day for feeding, training and maintaining. That is $40 x $480 x 55 days during the summer – which adds up to $1,056,000. This does not include vet bills or horseshoeing.

THE VISITORS: There will be at least 200 (owners, grooms, trainers, etc.) here for the two months of the race season. They will be purchasing food at grocery stores, going to movies, paying for hotel rooms or campsites, gassing up vehicles, repairing vehicles, going to local restaurants, shopping in local stores and taking in local events. It is estimated they would spend an average per day of about $100. Multiply 200 x $100 x 55 days and you get $1,100,000. This does not include the spectators who visit from various areas of the Peace Country and province.

THE STAFF: For the summer race program Evergreen Park hires 25 people beyond its normal staff. 

THE PURSE: It is estimated almost $700,000 in purse money will be awarded this summer to horse owners. 

THE SPONSORS: We have cash and Gift In Kind sponsors totalling close to $200,000 for 2014.

THE TRACK: Evergreen Park’s track is considered one of the best, and safest, in North America. So safe, in fact, insurance for jockeys and others using the track is the lowest in Canada.  Evergreen Park race track is 5/8ths mile around and is made of loam and sand. It is different than most that have a clay base with a sand surface. The key to this race track is that it takes a lot of water. On hot, dry days up to 50,000 gallons of water are poured on the track, but on the other side of it when it rains, it only needs a few hours of sunshine to dry out. There are very few muddy track cancellations during The Horses At Evergreen Park. In 2013 there were none.

THE JOCKEYS: There will be 12 to 15 jockeys living for two months at Evergreen Park during the racing season and as many as 20 making an appearance in GP. Last year Evergreen Park installed jockey dorms on-site and this year added shower/washrooms/laundry facilities. The jockeys hail from Canada, Mexico, Barbados and Jamaica. Top jockey from last year was Jamaican Larris Allen who won had 114 starts with 35 wins, 18 seconds and 15 thirds and won $114,174 in purse money at Evergreen Park.  Larris is back this year.

THE TRAINERS:  Two American trainers topped the standings in 2013 – Lyle Magnuson of Washington (15 wins, five seconds and three thirds) and Allen Goodsell of Montana (12 wins, 15 seconds and eight thirds). Top local trainer was Riley Rycroft of Teepee Creek who had eight wins, 12 seconds and 18 thirds.  Goodsell won the most purse money with $74,971 followed by Laurie Furguson of Lethbridge with $71,730.

THE HORSES: The point leading horse at The Horses At Evergreen Park in 2013 was Getrdonegotrdid, owned by Norm and Natalie Tremblay of Grande Prairie. Getrdonegotrdid had three wins and a third in four starts at Evergreen and won $7,066.

THE RACES: The shortest race is 110 yards and the longest a mile and an eighth – which is just over eight furlongs. A furlong is 220 yards. Quarter horses run in the shorter races – 110 to 870 yards – and thoroughbreds in the longer races – four furlongs to the 1 1/8 mile race.

PARI-MUTUEL RACING: Grande Prairie is one of only three locations in Alberta that features an extended pari-mutuel race season. The others are Edmonton and Lethbridge. It is unique to the Peace Country. Pari-mutuel racing has been held at Evergreen Park every year since the Park opened in 1982 and before that at the old fairgrounds on the city’s east side.

THE CONDITIONS & DRAW: The Racing Secretary "writes" the roster of races based on the preponderance or types of horses among the 480 residing at the track. For the GP races the conditions for the first three weekends of racing were written weeks ago. The draw, on the other hand, is done the days leading into the races. The draw - which slots individual horses into each race depending on the conditions for that race - for Friday’s races is done Tuesday, for Saturday’s races Wednesday and for Sunday’s races Thursday.

THE POST TIMES: Fridays and Saturdays post time is 6:30 p.m. and Sundays and holiday Monday (Aug. 4) 1 p.m. There is no charge to watch the races.

TROYER TOWN: We have moved Troyer Town outside for the summer! There will be two bouncy castles and a huge sand pile with toys for the kids at the Gordon Badger Stadium.

HORSE RACING (July 11...

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Who: Horses from all over

What: The Horses At Evergreen Park

When: Starts Friday, July 11 and continues every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and holiday Monday, Aug. 4) until Sunday, Aug. 24. Fridays and Saturdays 6:30 p.m. and Sunday and holiday Monday 1 p.m. post time.

Where: Badger Stadium

Why: To allow you to bet on the horses and to provide some great entertainment for the summer.