It’s Friday morning, but rather than sitting at a desk in front of a computer, a group of Dell employees, partners and customers are walking through a paddock, greeted by the neighs and brays of thoroughbred race horses. They also bump into jockey Mickey Walls, who’s being inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
This is part of a backstretch tour during a corporate event for Dell Canada at Woodbine Racetrack, where corporate events are much more than typical boardroom meetings. Aside from gourmet cuisine, events here can also incorporate horse racing action and even a meet-and-greet with Woodbine’s most popular residents: the horses.
Dell hosts many events in Toronto, typically at downtown hotels and restaurants. “For this event, we were trying to be different and come up with something outside of the box,” says Michel Lagace, senior manager of business marketing with Dell Canada.
The event, aptly named “Winning the Race to IT Transformation,” included an optional backstretch tour in the morning, followed by meetings, a gourmet buffet lunch and an afternoon at the races, with private-balcony views of all three racetracks from the Northern Dancer event space on the 5th floor.
Dell was expecting about 75 to 80 attendees, but 135 people turned up. “Some people stayed until 6 p.m., so I’m sure they enjoyed it,” says Lagace. “I spoke with customers and team members and everybody was super impressed.”
He was also surprised by how many people turned up for the optional backstretch tour. “We had over 80 people doing the tour. We thought we’d be getting 20 or 30,” he says. “Nobody realized there were 1,800 horses in this location. It was an eyeopener.”
Woodbine is a unique venue for events of all sizes — client meetings, tradeshows, fundraising galas, cocktail receptions, birthday parties, wedding receptions or other milestone gatherings — even for those who know nothing about horse racing.
The racetrack has several bright, airy spaces with VIP views of the horse racing action, from private rooms to friendly pubs and sunny patios. Woodbine Entertainment’s second racetrack, Woodbine Mohawk Park in Milton just off the 401, also has many additional venue options for hosting unique events. These spaces can accommodate everything from intimate events to receptions for up to 2,000 people, with a dedicated team of sales professionals to coordinate the details.
Woodbine Racetrack’s newest event space is the Trackside Clubhouse, located trackside within the Taylor Turf oval. This newly renovated 10,000-square-foot infield paddock places guests in the heart of the action; large, sliding doors transition the indoor space into a custom-built 6,500-square-foot patio, which can hold up to 1,100 people. It also offers the latest audio and video technology for big-screen presentations, free Wi-Fi access indoors or on the patio, and a wide range of food and beverage options.
Woodbine offers birthday packages (with horse racing perks, a gift pack and personalized mini cake for the guest of honour), sports packages and milestone celebration packages for anniversaries, retirements and stags in private and semi-private spaces. All have customizable menus and live horse racing incorporated into the event.
“It’s definitely a place I can see us using again,” says Lagace. “It’s a fun place to do something.”