EDMONTON — The 91st running of the Canadian Derby happened in Nisku Sunday night, though COVID had it looking a little different this year.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions ticket sales had to be limited. In 2019 around 8,000 people came to the track to watch the event, this year only 200 tickets were sold.
“We budgeted for 200 people outside as per the AHS regulations and security will be on top of it so we’re making sure everyone’s playing by the rules,” Matt Jukich, the racing manager at Century Mile.
“When people were given their tickets, received their tickets, they were given a time to arrive. We didn’t want big groups showing up at once, we didn’t want big lineups at the front door so getting everybody in as quickly and as safely as possible.”
Jockeys have been back at the track since June, preparing for the return of racing. Attendance levels can’t be what they were in previous years but it’s better than nothing, according to Jukich.
“It’ll be strange but it was strange to begin the year here when we had nobody here so this is an improvement (from) no fans, but we’ll just do the best we can.”
This is the second year the “Super Bowl” of horse racing has taken place at the Century Mile racetrack.
“It’s exciting. Love the racing and it’s a really good time to spend with friends,” said Pat Buckler, one of the attendees.
Some of the fans at the event said while they were happy to be back at the track, it isn’t the same without the large crowds. Jukick said that even with a diminished crowd, the races haven’t changed.
“Nothing changes for the owners, the trainers, the jockeys, it’s their biggest day to get some money in their pockets and this is the day that everybody who buys a yearling or horse wants to win. It’s the race that everybody wants to have on the mantle.”
Sunday’s race is the biggest event in Canadian horse racing but races will continue to happen at Century Mile until November. The purse for the main event in the Canadian Derby this year is $100,000.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson
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