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Tuesday, 05 February 2019 15:34

Singles Cruise Shows Well In Big US Race

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Singles Cruise was foaled in California on January 27, 2016.

Last Saturday she celebrated her birthday a little early – with a victory in a Winter Derby Trials race at Las Alamitos Race Track in Cypress, California.

As a result, Singles Cruise’s birthday present to owners Janice and Barry Sather of Beaverlodge is an appearance in the Winter Derby Final at Los Alamitos on February 9.

Singles Cruise, with jockey Saul Ramirez Jr. aboard, was up against seven other horses in Saturday’s 400-yarder for three-year-olds winning in a photo finish (photo left) in 19.984 – less than a second off the track record of 19.067 set by Chivalry Sr in 2011.

Heading into the race she was one of the long shots at 33-1 odds. I Like My Chances, who was 43-1, finished second at 19.992 and Ladys A Cartel, 8-1 odds, third in 19.997.

Singles Cruise was tied for fifth/sixth (with Terrific First Down) following four trial races on the weekend while I Like My Chances was eighth and Ladys A Cartel nine of 10 horses who advanced to the $198,700 final on February 9.

The top qualifier for the Winter Derby Final was Powerful Favorite, who ran a 19.789 in its trial.

The Winter Derby features top quarter horses from across North America.

“It’s so tough to qualify for these big ones,” Janice Sather said of the Grade II Winter Derby Final. “Barry and I were hollering so hard I thought we both might have heart attacks.”

Singles Cruise paid $68.80 to win, $28 to place and $9 to show.

The three-year-old had five wins and a third after nine races in 2018 racing for the first time in 2019 at Los Alamitos on the weekend.

At the Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association awards celebration at the end of the 2018 season she was named Champion Two Year Old and Grand Champion Running Horse.

Singles Cruise won three out of four races in Grande Prairie at The Horses At Evergreen Park including the Evergreen Park Juvenile Challenge on August 19; the Jerry Stojan Memorial Stakes on July 27; and the Jerry Stojan Memorial Futurity Trial on July 8. On August 4 she was third in the EP Juvenile Challenge Trial.

Racing at Evergreen Park returns this summer on July 6 and continues weekends until August 25.

Monday, 21 January 2019 14:16

Locals Pick Up AQHRA Hardware

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Local horsemen and women took home some hardware from the Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association Awards at the end of the 2018 season.

 

Chuck Stojan was named Champion Owner and also had the Champion Distance Horse and Reserve Champion (Free Thought); and Champion Three Year Old (Stripsteak).

 

Singles Cruise, owned by Janice and Barry Sather of Beaverlodge, was the Champion Two Year Old and Grand Champion Running Horse. They also own Lucky Royal Rabbit, who was Champion Claiming Horse.

 

Nellie Pigeau, the top trai

 

 

ner from the 2018 The Horses At Evergreen Park, was trainer of Its Official, who won the Champion Alberta Bred Filly/Mare. Its Official is owned by Bruce Fenton.

 

Donalda Chochrane of Fort St. John was the owner of the Champion Alberta Bred Two Year Old Filly – a horse named Papas Coleen.

 

It is going to be an exciting season quarter horse racing at The Horses At Evergreen Park in July and August.

 

In part because the racing schedule includes five Bank of America Challenge races – three more than in 2018.

 

Evergreen Park will be hosting the Bank of America Evergreen Park Championship Challenge (440 yards); Adequan Evergreen Park Derby Challenge (400 yards); John Deere Evergreen Park Juvenile Challenge (350 yards); Evergreen Park Distaff Challenge (400 yards); and the Evergreen Park Distance Challenge (870 yards).   

 

Purse money from just those five races totals over $100,000 including $35,000 for the Bank of America Championship Challenge.

 

Evergreen Park will also once again be hosting the Alberta Derby in July.

 

The racing season at Evergreen Park opens on July 6 and concludes on August 25 with races every weekend.

Thursday, 10 January 2019 14:58

Five Big Races At JDA Raceway

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Quarter horse owners from Canada and the United States will be looking north next summer when The Horses At Evergreen Park return for the July-August pari-mutuel racing season on JDA Raceway at Gordon Badger Stadium.

And for good reason.

The summer schedule in Grande Prairie this year includes five Bank of America Challenge races – three more than in 2018.

Evergreen Park will be hosting the Bank of America Evergreen Park Championship Challenge (440 yards); Adequan Evergreen Park Derby Challenge (400 yards); John Deere Evergreen Park Juvenile Challenge (350 yards); Evergreen Park Distaff Challenge (400 yards); and the Evergreen Park Distance Challenge (870 yards).   

“The Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association and the American Quarter Horse Association have worked in conjunction with Evergreen Park for many, many years, bringing the Challenge races to the Evergreen Park each season,” said Evergreen Park Racing Manager Pat Hill.

The Challenge races at Evergreen Park are used as a regional qualifier with the winners advancing to the Bank of America Challenge Championship at The Downs in Albuquerque, NM on October 26. Over $100,000 in purse money comes along with the five races with the biggest being the Bank of America Championship at $35,000 American.

Two Evergreen Park regional winners appeared at the Bank Of American Challenge Championship at the Los Alamitos Race Course in California in November.

A horse named Singles Cruise (photo), owned by Janice and Barry Sather of Beaverlodge, finished a close fifth in the John Deere Juvenile Classic Championship while Glittering Blue, owned by Cody Eagle Bear, finished sixth in the Distance Challenge Championship.

JDA Raceway is the only facility in Canada hosting Bank of America Challenge competitions. All the other regional qualifiers are from tracks in the United States and Mexico and, tentatively, one in Brazil.

Evergreen Park hosts a long list of Challenge races including the Bank of America Championship Challenge, Merial Distaff Challenge, John Deere Juvenile Challenge, Adequan Derby Challenge, Pfizer Starter Allowance, Red Cell Distance Challenge, Zoetis Starter Allowance, Evergreen Park Bonus Challenge and Evergreen Park Maiden Challenge.  Some of these races have been renamed depending on the sponsorship.

“We also work in conjunction with the Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association each year to promote their stake races,” said Hill.  “Included in those races are the Jerry Stojan Memorial and the Grande Prairie Sprint. At just 110 yards the Sprint is the shortest race of the year at The Horses At Evergreen Park.”

Evergreen Park averages 40-plus quarter horses races each year, along with 10-plus stake races.

“Evergreen Park - along with Horse Racing Alberta, AQHRA & A.C.T.R.A. Associations, trainers & owners - takes great pride in hosting the ‘Class B’ track races in July and August,” said Hill.

Evergreen Park also hosts the Alberta Derby, Empire Oilfield Solutions Grande Prairie Derby and Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Paint The Park Purple – Race For The Cure, which is a fundraiser for pancreatic cancer research.

There will be 20 weekend racing days at The Horses At Evergreen Park next summer starting July 6 and winding up on August, 25.

 

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 13:21

TARA Centre Newest Naming Right

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TARA ENERGY SERVICES PUTS NAME ON MAIN BUILDING AT EVERGREEN - NOW TARA CENTRE

Evergreen Park is pleased to announce its newest, and most high profile, naming rights sponsor.

The Tara Energy Services name will now appear on the Park’s main venue – formerly called ENTREC Centre.

The facility will now be called the TARA Centre effective January 1, 2019 continuing for a minimum of five years.

Tara Energy Services’ main goal is to provide superior service and equipment to the oil and gas sector in Canada and the United States. With over 500 employees in both Canada and United States, Tara Energy has become one of the foremost providers of production testing and flow back services and equipment in North America.

In addition to its business activities, Tara Energy has always had a focus on contributing to and interacting with the local community through continued support of local non-profit and charitable organizations. They enjoy and take pride in their involvement of vital programs within the Peace Region and in other communities in which they operate.

“Securing the naming rights to this facility is a huge opportunity for Tara Energy Services,” said Scott Bissell (standing in photo right), one of the owners of Tara Energy Services in Canada and the USA. “We are pleased to align our Company with the Evergreen Park organization in continuing to provide entertainment as well as event space for special interest groups and not-for-profit foundations for people all over the Mighty Peace.

“Having a first-class facility such as the TARA Centre will allow Grande Prairie to prosper and grow for many years to come.”

Tara Energy Services was welcomed to the Evergreen Park “family” by General Manager Dan Gorman and Evergreen Park board president Brad Richards on Dec. 14 at a press conference.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with Tara Energy and to having our feature facility named the TARA Centre”, said Gorman. “During our conversations with Scott the past few months it has become apparent to us both that our cultures are very similar.”

“Our belief in a strong ‘guest-first’ attitude and approach; great staff relationships; and support; and a belief in supporting and enhancing the community are part of both of our cultures.

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Tara Energy Services as a major sponsor of Evergreen Park, and we look forward to working together on many ventures in the future.”

The TARA Centre at Evergreen Park is the main event space at the Park with over 225 events there in the last year. It was opened in 2008 and features 105,000 square feet of event space. The facility has hosted concerts by the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Serena Ryder, Big Wreck, Hedley, Blue Rodeo, Nelly and Paul Brandt and is used for trade shows, graduations and other events where large floor space is required. Fundraisers in the building raise over $1,500,000 annually for local charities.

“It is a great fit for both of us- we thank Scott and the Tara Energy Services team for choosing Evergreen Park to partner with,” said Gorman.

First even in the newly-named facility is XFFC’s Festival Of Fists 3, held on the same day as the naming rights announcement.

Monday, 17 December 2018 08:48

Good Year For Race Club

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Seventeen times Evergreen Park Racing Club 2018 horses left the starting gate in 2018 and 11 times the Club steeds finished in a win, place or show position.

The Club had four horses running in races at Rocky Mountain Turf Club in Lethbridge and in Grande Prairie at The Horses At Evergreen Park – Swiss Skimmer, Brave Julian, Supah Spirit and Diamond Cut.

Swiss Skimmer, born in California in 2012, put the most money in the Club coffers.

She netted $7,867 for the Club including $3,975 for winning a 6 ½ furlong race at Evergreen Park on August 19. Over the spring-summer racing season Swiss Skimmer also had a second, third, fourth and sixth.

The second, on June 30 in Lethbridge, came in a seven furlongs race and earned the Club $2,912.

Brave Julian, born in 2008 in California, crossed the finish line first in that race at Rocky Mountain Turf Club.

He also had a second, fourth and two fifths.

Both Diamond Cut and Supah Spirit raced in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie, but their appearances were limited because of injuries.

Supah Spirit, born in Arizona in 2013, had two seconds, a third and a fourth for the Club winning $2,722 in total racing twice in Lethbridge and twice in Grande Prairie.

Diamond Cut left the starting gate three times as a Club horse with two of those at The Horses At Evergreen Park.

She was born in California in 2012 and managed a second and two thirds racing as a Club horse while helping put $2,110 into the Club bank account.

Club membership was down about 25 over 2017, but it still turned out to be a break-even season with no red figures.

In 2017, the first year of the Club, the four Club horses – Extreme Spell, Red ‘N Black Attack, Dman Doughty and Command The Land - ran 13 times with four wins, two seconds and two thirds.

The Evergreen Park Racing Club 2019 will kick off in the spring with a social at Evergreen Park.

Anyone interested in being a member (just $250) can click on Online Tickets above and do so online or drop into or phone (780-532-3279) the Evergreen Park office.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018 13:34

Singles Cruise Shows Well In Big US Race

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SINGLES CRUISE A COMPETITIVE FIFTH IN LOS ALAMITOS

 

Singles Cruise broke well and was a solid second for most of the race, but was overtaken at the finish line by three other horses in the $125,000 John Deere Juvenile Classic Championship at the Los Alamitos Race Course near Los Angeles Saturday night.

Owned by Janice and Barry Sather of Beaverlodge, the two-year-old went into the California race - part of the Bank Of America Challenge - after dominating in Alberta this year.

The California-bred won three out of four races in Grande Prairie at The Horses At Evergreen Park including the Evergreen Park Juvenile Challenge on August 19; the Jerry Stojan Memorial Stakes on July 27; and the Jerry Stojan Memorial Futurity Trial on July 8. On August 4 she was third in the EP Juvenile Challenge Trial.

She has won five of seven races she competed in during her first year of racing finishing up the summer at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club in Lethbridge where, on Oct. 6, she was first in the Canada Cup Futurity Trial following that up with a win in the Canada Cup finale on October 21.

Going into Saturday's race Singles Cruises’ had earned almost $70,000.

She helped the Sathers pocket $7,500 for the fifth place in Los Alamitos.

Before the gate opened Singles Cruise was rated at 18/1 and lined up in the No. 2 slot to the right of favorite Kr Hi Five, who won the 350 yard race in 17.670.

Singles Cruise chased the winner in second for almost 325 yards before being caught by runner-up Stevieb Flashcash (17.793) and Jess Send It and Allyson Wonderland, who finished in a dead heat for third at 17.813

Singles Cruise, with jockey Saul Ramirez Jr. aboard, finished in 17.670 in the nine-horse field.

Another horse that competed at the Horses At Evergreen Park this past summer also raced at Los Alamitos Saturday - in the $100,000 Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship over 870 yards.

Glittering Blue, owned by Cody Eagle Bear and ridden by E. Gomez, was up against five other horses in that race and finished sixth.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 09:48

Pines Champ A $1M Winner

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PINES RESTAURANT & CASINO WINNER TAKES HOME $1M AFTER TOURNEVENT FINALE IN LAS VEGAS

 

Earlier this year Tanya (whose last name, at her request, will not be revealed at this point) competed in a TournEvent competition at the Pines Restaurant & Casino that earned her a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the TournEvent championship final - against other local casino winners from across North America.

Today the Grande Prairie woman can call herself a millionaire. She won the finale, the grand prize of $1 million and a cruise for two on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

The win came at the XS Nightclub at the Wynn/Encore Las Vegas Resort. She won out over 165 other competitors.

The tournament, operated by Everi Holdings Inc., is considered the premier slot tournament in North America.

"I would to congratulate Tanya and thank her for promoting Evergreen Park in Las Vegas in the TournEvent of Champions last night and how proud we are of her for winning the $1 Million Grand Prize," said Evergreen Park Racing & Gaming Manager Pat Hill. "I would also say thank you to Everi &  Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) for bringing these tournaments to Alberta and making them such fun events for our facility."

The 2018 TournEvent of Champions kicked off in May 2018 and featured three tour buses and The Money Man®, Everi’s iconic brand ambassador, visiting 104 partner casinos traveling nearly 50,000 miles across the United States and Canada.

"We are absolutely thrilled that one of our customers won last night," said Evergreen Park General Manager Dan Gorman. "We are also proud of our Pines Restaurant & Casino management team of Pat Hill, Maureen Wydenes and Darren Weatherburn for their great job of hosting and promoting the Evergreen Park portion of the tournament."

More than 200,000 participants competed in TournEvent qualifiers to identify the top 166 players who competed in last night’s The Million Dollar Event for a share of more than $1.3 million in cash prizes, including the $1 million* top prize. The finale was streamed live on the TournEvent of Champions and Super Jackpot Slots Community Casino Facebook pages.

“On behalf of Everi, congratulations to Tanya from the Pines Restaurant & Casino, Evergreen Park, for beating the top slots players in North America to win the grand prize in the 2018 TournEvent of Champions,” said Ed Peters, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, at Everi. “The continued success of TournEvent of Champions is not made possible without the commitment of our partner casinos as they host TournEvent qualifying events that create the excitement on which this program thrives. We also want to acknowledge our dedicated promotions team for partnering with the 104 participating casinos over the last five months to create memorable experiences for their TournEvent players.”

As a precursor to The Million Dollar Event, Everi held a skill-based slot tournament based on the fiercely popular app Fruit Ninja™ earlier in the day in Everi’s booth at the Global Gaming Expo. Played on the company’s award-winning and industry leading TournEvent slot tournament solution, nearly all 166 TournEvent of Champion finalists and their guests competed for 14 spots in the Fruit Ninja tournament championship held that evening during The Million Dollar Event, with the winner taking home $5,000.

Tanya can receive her $1 million in periodic payments over 20 years or in a lump sum, present day cash value payment.

Everi is a leading supplier of technology solutions for the casino gaming industry.

Monday, 08 October 2018 13:03

Good year of racing!

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After the seventh race on the final day of The Horses At Evergreen Park on Sunday, August 26 it was difficult to tell who had the widest grin – Nellie Pigeau, Blandford Stewart or Lyle Magnuson.Pigeau was happy because that race clinched her the Top Trainer award for the season at Evergreen Park.

Stewart, awarded Top Jockey for the GP season, was grinning because he was on the back of the horse, Closing Katie, that won the title for Pigeau.

And Magnuson, the top trainer at both The Horses At Evergreen Park and Rocky Mountain Turf Club in Lethbridge last year (and also the trainer for the Evergreen Park Racing Club 2018) was smiling because he was happy for both of them.

Grande Prairie’s Pigeau (photo right) - who shows up with horses at all of the B Track races spring, summer and fall – won her first Top Trainer award. She entered races 62 times with 17 wins, 14 seconds and 11 thirds and won $67,809 over the summer season at J.D.A. Raceway at Gordon Badger Stadium.

Stewart, who is edging towards a half-million dollars in winnings over a career that started in 2009, rode 30 winners after 115 tries and had 29 seconds and 26 thirds for $144,360 in winnings.

Magnuson was a close second in wins with 16, had 12 seconds and 29 thirds and $65,809 in winnings in Grande Prairie in July and August.

Stewart (photo left) finished well ahead of runner-up Larris Allen in the jockey race. Allen had 25 wins, 18 seconds and 23 thirds after 94 mounts and $99,612 in winnings.

After nine races of on-and-off rain Sunday, the season ended on a sunny note for Race 10 – Mr. Mike’s Paint The Park Purple – Race For The Cure (top photo winners circle).

Fittingly enough it was Blandford behind the reins of Big Miss Steak in that one – six furlongs for a purse of $8,500 in the Purple Day stakes race.

That race was the final stakes race of the season as well as the season-ender for the Horses at the Park.

One race before was the $30,596 Evergreen Park Distance Challenge – over 870 yards.

Glittering Blue, with Stewart in the saddle yet again, won that for owner Cody Eagle Bear and trainer Alvin Cross Child.

Over the course of the season – 20 days of racing with three rain-outs (something very unusual for Evergreen Park – there were 21 “stakes” races.

The biggest of those was the Alberta Derby at Evergreen Park held on Sunday, Aug. 5.

The top four horses from that race – Regal Max, Shimshine, Gem Alta and Fort Mac – competed in the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park in Edmonton on August 25. That race was won by Sky Promise – a horse co-owned by Evergreen Park Racing Club 2018 manager Norm Tremblay. Shimshine was third.

The Alberta Derby was the top race for thoroughbreds at the Park over the summer while the highlight for the quarter-horses was the John Deere Juvenile Challenge. That race, a regional final, was over 350 yards for $31,000 in prize money. Singles Cruise, owned by Janice and Barry Sather, won and will head down to the United States in November for the big finale.

The season started on Saturday, July 7 as the horses, owners, trainers and others moved from Lethbridge to Grande Prairie after two months of racing in the southern Alberta City.

“It’s hard on the horsemen to travel from one meet to another, with such a short time frame, but everyone works together to make it happen and the excitement begins,” said Evergreen Park racing manager Pat Hill.

Hills says the Park works in conjunction with the Alberta Community Thoroughbred Racing Association, Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association, American Quarter Horse Association and Horse Racing Alberta.

“We worked with the Associations to provide top quality racing entertainment to our community,” said Hill of The Horses At Evergreen Park, one of only four venues in the province that offers both live and off-track horse betting.

Again, this year the Park catered to families at Gordon Badger Stadium.

“We are a family-oriented facility, having a kid’s zone and candy toss, along with other activities so that the little ones get to be a part of the action,” said Hill.

“We thank everyone for their continued support and we look forward to seeing everyone at The Horses At Evergreen Park again in 2019.”

Top trainer Pigeau, top jockey Stewart, and Magnuson too, are all in Lethbridge now as the B Track season continues September and October.

Anyone interested in following the horses they watched in Grande Prairie the last two months can continue to do so, and also bet, as those races will all be on screens at the Pines Restaurant & Casino at Evergreen Park.

 

 

Friday, 01 June 2018 17:15

J.D.A. RACEWAY ON TRACK

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J.D.A RACEWAY IS ON TRACK AT EVERGREEN

For the first time since it opened in 1982 the race track at Evergreen Park has a name.

For the next 10 years, at least, the complex will be known as J.D.A. Raceway.

J.D.A. Ventures, with locations in Grande Prairie and Whitecourt, has purchased the naming rights to the track.

“J.D.A. Ventures Ltd. is very happy to be sponsoring the Raceway at Evergreen Park,” said Jarvie Dawson of J.D.A., son of founder Jarvis Dawson. “The track is somewhere where friends and family get together, and as a family-owned company, that is something that speaks to the core values of our business. We are excited to be connected to such a large part of the community and all the memories to be made out at the track.”

The first memories will be formed next week when the chuckwagons and rodeo performers hit the track for the 41st annual Grande Prairie Stompede.

“We’re very, very thrilled the track sponsor is such a strong community supporter as the Dawson family is,” said Evergreen Park General Manager Dan Gorman. “We would like to develop and grow and expand the track and add different things. So, we are going to work with the Dawson family and the Dawson group to be able to enhance and grow that.”

In many ways J.D.A. Ventures Ltd. history mirrors that of Evergreen Park.

J.D.A. owner Jarvis Dawson started – like the Grande Prairie Regional Agricultural & Exhibition Society (Evergreen Park) did with a county fair consisting of some tables of crafts and a few farmyard animals in downtown Grande Prairie in 1910 - from humble beginnings, worked hard to create something special and has seen his company grow to become an important part of the community.

Established in 1994 as a one-truck hotshot company operating out of an automotive shop (that’s where the “A” comes from in J.D.A.) today J.D.A. is a well-known light and heavy oilfield hauler operating out of branches in Grande Prairie and Whitecourt (established 2015) with over 150 pieces of equipment and 75-plus employees.

Jarvis is the middle son of teachers Martha and Leo Dawson and grew up in the community. In 1990, he married his wife Kim and they have four children - Mandy, Jarvie, and twins Dusty and Dylan. Kim has been his loyal and loving partner in life and in business.

At the age of 16 Jarvis started growing his infamous mustache, for which he is well known today, and thus began his career in the oilfield industry. In 1986, Jarvis bought a three-bay service station and worked as a power tong hand occasionally on weekends to meet the needs of his family. There was plenty of struggle in the early years, but it was at the service station where he got his feet wet as an entrepreneur and started learning the challenges of owning a business.

Jarvis is deeply committed to the community, local charities and organized sports. One of his joys as a young teen was raising a 4-H steer, and he continues to support the 4-H program. As his sons matured through hockey leagues, he began to support local team programs and still continues in that commitment with the donation of transportation for a number of sports teams including the J.D.A. Kings hockey team. A number of other community organization and charities have been recipients of the generosity of Jarvis and Kim.

The commitment to the community continues with the naming rights to the J.D.A. Raceway at Evergreen Park. The 10-year agreement is valued at $25,000 per year.

J.D.A. Raceway is part of a complex that includes Gordon Badger Stadium, the Pines Restaurant & Casino and the Pines Family Restaurant. While the track is active in the spring, summer and fall the facility is open year-round.

Jarvis Dawson came up with the name for the track.

“When he first said he wanted to call it J.D.A. Raceway I thought that sounded like a stock car track so I googled raceway and found there are a lot of horse racing tracks called raceways in North America,” said Evergreen Park Marketing and Sponsorship Manager Don Moon. “J.D.A. Raceway also rolls off the tongue very nicely so it’s a very appropriate fit.”

Following Stompede, Boots & Moccasins Chuckwagon Racing & Powwow Weekend will be held June 15-17 and then in July and August J.D.A. Raceway hosts The Horses At Evergreen Park. One of the bigger events of September is the South Peace Horse Club Trials. The track also hosts events like monster trucks, Nitro Circus, high school rodeo and more.

J.D.A. Raceway, considered one of the safest horse racing tracks in North American, is 7/8th of a mile and is made of sand and loam with a clay base.

Mark Sutherland won the top bid at the World Professional Chuckwagon Association's Grande Prairie Stompede tarp sale, taking in an $11,000 bid at Maddhatters on Friday night.

A total of $239,950 was bid in the auction for 36 available drivers, well above last years mark of $161,800. The community tarp also went for $6,500.
 
Grande Prairie Stompede chuckwagon director Phil Troyer was asked why the event was so successful, attracting $78,150 more than last year.
 
“You have to give some of it to the economy,” Troyer said. "The economy is on the uptick and we saw the same thing in Calgary (where the tarp auction raised $3,238,000 for the Stampede). That right there told us we should see an uptick. I would have been disappointed if our numbers had gone down from last year.”
 
Air Canada made the winning bid for Sutherland.  The 47-year-old driver was asked what he says when he strolls over to the table of the winning bid.
 
“First of all, this is my business and it’s kind of a weird arrangement,” Sutherland said. “NASCAR doesn’t have auctions and that’s one of the unique things about chuckwagons. I’m happy, thankful and grateful they want to invest that much money and their brand, and mix it with my brand. So, it’s a pat on the back for me, it means I’m doing some things right in the sport.”
 
Mitch Sutherland led the Grande Prairie drivers, taking in $9,000 while Chanse Vigen picked up $8,500. Mike Vigen got $7,000 and Kirk Sutherland pulled in $6,500. Rick Fraser, a Grande Prairie native who now calls Wetaskiwin home, pulled in $5,000 from Friends of Team 23.
 
Since it was a standalone sale, meaning it was a Grande Prairie only event, Troyer says that’s a big drawing card for businesses in town to pony up the cash but he also mentioned limiting pre-sales as another factor.
 
 “It used to be, in an effort to shorten the tarp sale, not make the event so long, we did pre-sales where you could pre -sale somebody for ten thousand dollars and that driver didn’t have to show up in Grande Prairie,” Troyer said. “(There are) no pre-sales, now. For sure, there are some deals made but it’s pretty legit. If somebody wants you for ten grand they can bid to that (number) because every one was selling on Friday night. There’s no limit on the high end.”
 
Sutherland was the only driver not wearing some combination of the traditional drivers gear, eschewing  a cowboy hat, jeans, cowboy boots and flannel shirt in favour of a suit and tie.  His hair was cut short and combed, not a whisker on his face.
 
“I do pride myself on my image,” Sutherland said. “It does irk some of the guys that I don’t walk around with a cowboy hat. I’ve always said ‘if you don’t think I’m a cowboy come to ranch and leave my gate open and see what happens.’ That’s not a good thing.”
 
“Professional image is what we’re all about and he, truly, represents the professional image we’re looking for,” Air Canada senior manager Cathy Redekopp added when asked why the airline decided to sponsor Sutherland.
 
This a business to the De Winton native and he treats it as such, in his approach and appearance. He’s his own sales pitch.
 
“About 90% of my budget comes from sponsorship and you can budget on sponsorship because it’s something that is a confirmed amount before the season starts,” Sutherland said. “You can’t budget on prize money because that’s like budgeting on winning the lottery.”
 
Sutherland pointed out it’s been a tough couple of years in the province with the decline in the energy sector and some drivers were, and still are, to a certain extent, feeling the money crunch.
 
“Wagon racing costs a lot of money and if you don’t get sponsorship, at some point, you have to start thinking that ‘I don’t want to wake up at fifty and be broke,’” Sutherland said. “I’ve spent my life working and  I’ve had some opportunities but I don’t want to mortgage the farm to wagon race. If you can’t get solid sponsorship in the sport you start looking at you exit plan and I was looking at my exit plan.”
 
The 2018 Grande Prairie Stompede runs May 30-June 3 at Evergreen Park.
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