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The horses break from the gate at the new 5 furlong oval at Ajax Downs
On Saturday June 6, Ajax Downs began a new era in its history when it kicked off the 2009 Quarter Horse racing season on its new 5 furlong oval track. For 40 years, racing at the former Picov Downs was conducted on the "J-track", a straightaway with a sharp right hairpin turn to the runout, but this limited racing to the length of the straight, a distance of 440 yards. The final race on that surface was run last year on September 21 and the name was changed to Ajax Downs. With the new oval, straight races of 440 yards out of the chute are possible, as well as longer races around the turn.
The new paddock at Ajax Downs
Jockey Ed Walton comes flying off Twaynas Flight after the start.
Dales Royal Dash finishes first in the first race over the new surface.
The second race, a 250 yard, $5,500 speed index race for older horses, went off without a hitch with 7-2 second choice Marked Cod and jockey Dave Griffith closing from sixth to nose out 4-1 third choice Madam Shazoom and jockey Jesse Daigrepont at the line in a photo finish in 13.60 seconds. It was another neck back to Lucky Eyes third. This race also had an inquiry, but this was disallowed. As there were payoffs posted, this makes Saturday's second race the first official pari-mutuel race over the new oval.
Although opening day had a few glitches, the new track is a step in the right direction for Ajax Downs. The track will run a total of 35 dates through October (every Sunday with some Saturdays) with total purses in excess of $5 million. The $105,000 Alex Picov Memorial Futurity on October 4, the $105,000 Alex Picov Memorial Championship (G3) on October 11 and the $100,000 Ontario Jackpot Futurity on October 18 highlight the stakes schedule.
Two views of the new stands with the rooftop patio next to the simulcast center seen in the one on the left. The inside of the building is all slots and simulcasts, with live racing only on the outside.
Left: Looking across the track at the finish line and new video toteboards. Obviously they are still working on landscaping and hopefully there will be more than just an empty expanse of dirt there soon.
Right: The simulcast center inside the building with the paddock seen through the windows.
Left: The finish of the second race won by Marked Cod on the outside. A nose back in second is Madam Shazoom and Lucky Eyes a neck behind her in third.
Right: Marked Cod and Dave Griffith return after winning the second race.
Here is the full sequence of the chain reaction bumping in the first race.
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