Passing lane to open up at Fraser Downs

Horses race past pylons at Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino. The track's new passing lane should be complete by the start of racing Jan. 7.

Plans are underway to create a new, inside passing lane for harness racing at Fraser Downs. Proponents say it will make races more exciting to watch and bet on.

A passing lane allows horses that are blocked in an opportunity to break out from behind the leaders during the final stretch.

“It’s an issue our horsemen have been supporting and we’re going forward with a plan,” director of racing Jackson Wittup said. “It would give more horses a shot at winning.”

It’s a return to form for the historic harness racing facility, which originally opened as a half-mile track under the name Cloverdale Raceway.

When the racetrack expanded to a five-eighths of a mile oval in 1996, it lost the passing lane, Dan Jukich, simulcast director at Fraser Downs, said.

The plan is to have the new, inside passing lane in place for the Jan. 7 races – the start of the 2011 schedule.

“The horsemen wanted it, and we’re going to put it in,” he said.

A designated pylon is set up at the start of the stretch, indicating the beginning of the inside passing lane. Nobody can go inside until the final lap, and there are strict rules drivers must follow.

When the inside lane is in place, horses will be able to move to the inside lane and have a better opportunity to win.

“It’s going to make the races more exciting. There will be a better finish,” Jukich said. “Now, when they get boxed in they’ve got no place to go.”

The passing lane will be in place in time for the Western Regional Driving Championships Saturday, Feb. 26 at Fraser Downs.

The regionals are expected to draw drivers and horses from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. and decide which decide two winners go onto the nationals at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino in Charlottetown, PEI, on May 7.