by Victoria M. Howard
Born in St. Thomas, ON, Jessica Buckley by no means imagined at some point she can be the senior vice-president of standardbred and thoroughbred racing for Canada’s largest horse racing firm — the Woodbine Leisure Group.
“I’ve had the good luck of creating a profession in racing. After taking a summer time job at Woodbine Leisure, following commencement from college, I turned fascinated with the complexities of the racing enterprise.
“Though it was not my quick plan, alternatives for innovation have been arising with expertise. After being a part of the crew that launched HPI wager (HorsePlayer Interactive) and HPI TV, I left Woodbine after eight years to pursue a chance in California with Magna Leisure (now The Stronach Group) the place I helped launch Xpress Guess and Horse Racing TV (now TVG2).
“After working with Magna for 9 years, I returned to Canada and to Woodbine the place I started working with the crew on the property improvement within the function of Authorities Relations and Neighborhood Relations.
“Throughout that point the Woodbine board made the choice to maneuver harness racing yr spherical to Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“In 2017, once I turned president of Mohawk Park, I labored with a crew to make this particular property and monitor a year-round vacation spot for racing and leisure.
“In 2020, my function shifted to senior vice-president of standardbred and thoroughbred racing — now dividing my time between the 2 breeds,” mentioned Buckley.
Jessica’s love for horses began along with her mom, Mary Anderson, who was a pony clubber in London, ON.
“My mom stored her pony, Bay Girl, in a discipline subsequent to cottages in Orchard Seaside. Within the bliss of the Fifties, when she was in her early teenagers on summer time trip, she met my dad, Bob, in close by Port Stanley.
“She jumped her pony over the hedges between the cottages and swam with Bay Girl at Little Seaside on the shores of Lake Erie.
“My father innately liked horses and wished to be round them so collectively of their early 20s they purchased their first thoroughbred broodmare and got down to turn out to be breeders. It was a shared ardour.
“They have been the primary technology of horsepeople in every of their households and efficiently operated a thoroughbred breeding farm for a few years in St. Thomas, Ontario.
“Many years later, my brother, David Anderson, piqued my dad’s curiosity in standardbreds. It was a thoughts leap on the time, however David satisfied my dad there was a terrific worth within the enterprise. He acted as bloodstock agent and shortly discovered some unbelievable fillies on the gross sales they usually went on to have harness racing success collectively.”
It’s no shock Buckley has been so profitable in her place, for she is decided that Woodbine turn out to be the #1 harness racetrack in North America. This consists of difficult each season to give you improvements in racing and new methods to do issues.
“If our assessments in innovation don’t work out, we don’t consider it as a whole failure — we study and alter. Staying targeted on integrity in racing is of utmost significance for our gamers and horse folks.
“Racing is an business with a lot custom, however we should proceed to make modifications to evolve over time and proceed to attraction to the brand new technology of followers and the subsequent technology of horsepeople.”
What are some future plans for Woodbine Mohawk Park?
“Future plans embody yr two of the Mohawk Million in 2021, together with our stakes program —among the finest in North America.
“We have now invested over $16 million within the monitor and services over the previous three years. We’ll proceed to spend money on our wagering infrastructure, together with Darkish Horse and HPI wager.com, which have been a large a part of our shift to digital wagering throughout COVID-19.
“This shift has accelerated the penetration of on-line wagering and permits for additional funding within the Darkish Horse app, constructed for the subsequent technology sports activities wagering fan.”
Racing horses at Woodbine has turn out to be extra well-liked for coach/homeowners, regardless of the winters that may be fairly brutal.
“Winter racing isn’t for the faint of coronary heart. I’m amazed on the resilience of the horsepeople on chilly nights. We have now an unbelievable monitor floor crew that work very laborious to maintain the monitor race prepared: snow, sleet or hotter winter days.
“The brand new paddock extension and renovations to winterize the race paddock have made the expertise way more comfy in the course of the winter months.
“Internet hosting a year-round circuit creates a terrific alternative for folks to make a residing right here in Ontario.”
So far as racing in 2021, Buckley mentioned,“We’re specializing in persevering with the optimistic momentum with the wagering swimming pools, confidence in our product with giant fields, integrity in racing and world class standardbreds.
“I’m glad to see that persons are nonetheless investing in horses on the fall gross sales. I believe there can be some racing jurisdictions which will undergo with uncertainty, however in Ontario, we plan to proceed sturdy into the brand new yr and transfer forward with nice alternatives for all.”