October 23, 2014

Sue Leslie Provides Update On OHRIA Task Force

“I have a lot of confidence in Stan [Sadinsky] that he’ll come up with the best
possible plan for the industry and we’re hopefully going to be able to support
it.”

In an interview conducted last week for HBPA, OHRIA President Sue Leslie
commented on the formation of the organization’s task force and hiring of Stan
Sadinsky as counsel. According to Leslie, the OHRIA Board felt that bringing on
Sadinsky to construct a plan was best for all parties involved.

“The Board of OHRIA has struggled, we have has felt conflicted in our
individual roles and the people we represent,” said Leslie. “And with what the
province has done, with such a drastic cut in income, it’s hard to believe that
whatever plan we come up with it’s not going to take a hit.

“We just felt it was very conflicted for us, ourselves, to come up with the
plan that was going to see individuals within the industry get hurt. So we
decided the best way to do it was someone independent who knows our industry
well, who is respected by government – Stan Sadinsky – to lead a very small task
force, because to be honest Stan will be doing most of the work, and come up
with a plan that would be independent, that he sees would be workable for the
industry moving forward based on what we can negotiate with government.”

Leslie noted that Sadinsky’s plan for horse racing would then come back to
the OHRIA Board for the organization to either endorse or decline to support.
Four years ago, Sadinsky penned a report on horse racing in Ontario for the
Liberal government. That plan, frequently referred to as the Sadinsky Report,
asked for government to maintain the slots-at-racetracks program but with
benchmarks for ensuring the funding was properly utilized.

“We’ve giving Stan until the end of June to come back to the Board of OHRIA,”
continued Leslie. “We’re very cognisant of the fact that the yearling sales are
in September. So by giving Stan until the end of June we’re hoping that gives us
July to come up with something firm with the government and to get some
reassurance to the industry going forward. Government doesn’t move quickly, I
sure have learned that.”

One thing that Leslie sees changing is the governance model with Ontario,
given that the Ontario Racing Commission is an arm of the government which is
seemingly trying to distance itself from racing.

“Depending on what the end result of this mess is, I can see the horse racing
industry taking a lot more responsibility for itself through a governance model
and I see the [Ontario Racing Commission] taking less responsibility. Where
exactly that ends up I can’t say for sure.”

Earlier this week, Senator Bob Runciman was critical of racing’s reaction to
the OLG-Liberal government decision to end the slots-at-racetracks program as of
March 2013. On the contrary, Leslie feels that the petitions and pressure has
brought racing’s plight “to the forefront of government.”

“I know it’s hard to ask the industry to have more patience but we’ve got our
income coming in until next March and anything we do that is going to cut off
any chance of working something out with the government can be done later on,”
says OHRIA’s President. “We’ve got to make every effort, in my view and the view
of many people both in government and experts in public relations and government
affairs, all are encouraging OHRIA to continue to work with the government -
which we are going to do. Obviously at some point, if we feel we’re getting
nowhere and we feel that it’s not a meaningful dialogue then we’ll be the first
to tell the industry and, as you say, then our strategy is going to have to
change.”

(Standardbred Canada)

“We Care” Night At the Races Set For Mohawk, Monday, June 4

Sydney Weaver, arguably Ontario harness racing’s most enthusiastic fan, is again spearheading a fundraising night at Mohawk for children with disabilities.

The Monday June 4th event will raise money to send kids to summer camp through “Friends of We Care.”

Twelve-year-old Sydney, by the way, this week realized her long-time dream of jogging a horse (with a little help from Ron Waples).

This year Sydney, who is the daughter of Don and Lisa Weaver of Acton, ON, decided that she’d like to “give back” to the harness racing drivers who have always been so supportive of the children’s cause.

For a look at what Sydney has planned for the drivers this year, click here.

OHRIA Intent On Having Industry Plan Ready By July 1, COSA Tells Hamilton’s CHML Radio

 

OHRIA is aiming to table a new horse racing industry plan by July 1st to reinforce its negotiations with the Ontario government, COSA representatives told CHML Radio listeners on May 28th.

COSA President Bill O’Donnell and Director Jim Wellwood were guests on Hamilton’s popular Bill Kelly Show on AM 900. The pair of veteran horsemen capably presented racing’s side of the Slots at Racetracks argument in the call-in event hosted by Jamie West.

Listen to all four segments of the interview here:

Segment#1-Bill O’Donnell and Jim Wellwood CHML Radio

Segment #2-Bill O’Donnell and Jim Wellwood CHML Radio

Segment #3– Bill O’Donnell and Jim Wellwood CHML Radio

Segment #4– Bill O’Donnell and Jim Wellwood CHML Radio

Changes Announced To Mohawk’s Qualifying Schedule

Woodbine Entertainment Group would like to inform all horsepeople and fans of the following changes to Mohawk’s qualifying schedule.

Effective May 28, qualifiers will be conducted on Mondays and Fridays until the end of June.

Two-year-old qualifiers will be held on Saturday mornings starting June 2.

The week of the Pepsi North America Cup (June 10-16) will be the only time when the schedule will differ. Qualifiers will be held on Monday and Thursday with two-year-old qualifiers slated for Friday morning.

Two-Year-Old Qualifying Schedule for June:

Saturday, June 2
Saturday, June 9
Friday, June 15
Saturday, June 23
Saturday, June 30

ORC Approves Reduced Racing Schedule For Mohawk

Following a period of public consultation, the Ontario Racing Commission
(ORC) has approved an application received from Woodbine Entertainment Group
(WEG) to vary the approved 2012 race date schedule for Mohawk Racetrack,
removing 17 Tuesdays from the schedule.

After full consideration of the submissions, having reviewed the
recommendation of the Implementation and Monitoring (IM) Group, having applied
the principles of the Ontario Racing Program (ORP) Framework, the ORC Director
approved the WEG application.

As a condition of approval, the WEG management will continue to work with the
IM Group and the horse people to monitor horse supply in the region.

REASONS FOR DECISION

The following impacted on the Director’s decision:

1) There is evidence of a reduced horse supply for the months of January to
April 2012 for WEG and all Signature tracks. These numbers have reduced from
2011.

2) In 2011 when Mohawk raced 5 days a week, WEG management had difficulty
drawing sufficient entries and the quality of horses required for their betting
public locally and internationally.

3) There was expressed concern that racing five days a week would be a
continued strain on the horse supply at Mohawk and throughout the region.

4) Allowing WEG to race four days a week at Mohawk will better utilize the
current horse supply and create a more competitive racing product, not only at
Mohawk but at tracks in the region.

5) It is noted that wagering on WEG product from January to April at four
days a week has shown a significant percentage increase over 2011.

6) A survey of its membership conducted by the COSA confirmed there was
substantial support for continuing the four day racing week.

Please be advised that you or any other aggrieved party have the right to
appeal the Director’s decision to the Commission pursuant to the Rules of
Standardbred Racing.

John L. Blakney
Executive Director

(ORC)

Online Bidding On Hall of Fame Artwork Closes May 25th–Check It Out!

The bidding in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame online equine art auction is well underway!

Here is your chance to own a unique piece of equine art, and support the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Available for  online bidding are:

Item One – “Somebeachsomewhere” by artist Linda Shantz.  We are offering a limited edition framed and numbered print (25/50) from the oil painting commissioned on the occasion of Somebeachsomewhere’s induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.  The print is signed by the artist as well as driver Paul MacDonnell

Item Two – “Northern Dancer” by artist Debbie Goldring.  Limited edition framed and numbered print (34/50) signed by the artist.  The original head study of Northern Dancer was commissioned by the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of his birth – 2011.

Item Three – “Colors of the Hambletonian”.  Framed, signed Poster celebrating the first 75 years of the Hambletonian and illustrating the driving colours of the winners.  Signed by John Campbell, Stanley Dancer, Jack Moiseyev, Ron Pierce, Ray Remmen, Ron Waples and many more.

Item Four – “John Henry” Bill Shoemaker up!  By artist Fred Stone.  Limited edition framed, signed and numbered print (558 of 595)

Bids are being accepted until 6:00pm on May 25th.  For complete details, please visit www.canadianhorseracinghalloffame.com

OHRIA Assembles Task Force To Develop Plan For Sustaining Ontario Horse Racing

In light of the government’s announcement to terminate the existing Slots at Racetracks Program, the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) has struck a Task Force to develop a plan and enter into a dialogue with government that will result in a viable and successful horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario.

The Task Force is currently comprised of Sue Leslie, Chair of OHRIA as Chair, Jamie Martin, Executive Vice-President, Racing at Woodbine Entertainment and Hugh Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer at Western Fair District, others will be added as we move forward.

The Task Force has retained Stanley Sadinsky Q.C. to assist and advise it on the development of the plan. Mr. Sadinsky, a lawyer, specializes in Gambling Law and Policy.  He is a former Chair of the Ontario Racing Commission (1994-2003) and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) (2003-2004). He consults with government ministries and agencies and with the private sector on gambling policy and legal issues.

Sadinsky has written reports for government on the Problem Gambling and Responsible Gaming Strategy of Ontario (2005) and on a plan for the Strategic Development of the Horse Racing and Breeding Industry of Ontario (2008).

(OHRIA)

“Beat the Heat Series” Nominations Due June 1

WEG would like to remind horsemen that nominations are due shortly for the return of last season’s “Beat the Heat” pacing series.

The event is for 4-year-old and older pacers, NW $25,000 in 2012. Two preliminary legs will be held in June at Mohawk, with a Guaranteed $50,000 Final on July 7th.

Friday, June 1 is the cut-off day for “Beat the Heat” nominations and the fee is $100.

For complete details and a printable PDF of the nomination form, click here.

Harness Handicappers Follow Racing Personalities On Twitter

If you’re a racing fan, handicapper or just interested in what goes on behind the scenes on the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) circuit, then you surely need a Twitter account.

Twitter, the social networking service, allows its users to send and read text-based posts, limited to 140 characters each, from other users.  In 2012, it was reported by Twitter that 140 million people use the site, which is just six years old.

Movie star Ashton Kutcher, musician Justin Bieber and athlete Lebron James are just some of the high-profile people who have been known to frequently engage with their fans on Twitter.

Over the past few months, several drivers and trainers on the WEG circuit have signed up to Twitter and made a conscious effort to do their part and enlighten racing fans and handicappers about their prospects each evening.

“A lot of drivers frequently get asked about their drives on a particular horse or on all their drives on a given race card, so for me, if I’m telling one person my opinion, Twitter is a great tool to tell the world for the better of the sport,” offered driver Anthony MacDonald. “Don’t get me wrong, anything can happen in a horse race, but we are trying to offer some incentive of what our thoughts are going behind the gate so the handicappers can take into perspective our thoughts and hopefully use it to their advantage.”

Billy Davis Jr., who has notched 61 wins on the WEG circuit and 208 victories overall this season, has been a consistent force leading the social media charge by offering his opinions on every drive he is listed on.

By tweeting on a consistent basis, and also tagging his tweets to include his fellow drivers and trainers, Davis Jr. has also been instrumental to the following of other horsemen on social media.

“I started tweeting a few years ago (2010) when Mark MacDonald began tweeting,” Davis Jr. recalled. “I wanted to do the same as what he was doing and provide a little input on the horses I’m driving.”

Davis, Jr., admits that he wasn’t sure how his efforts would be received in the racing and handicapping communities.

“I stopped tweeting for about a month or two and someone approached me one night at Georgian [Downs] and asked me why I stopped because he really enjoyed what I was tweeting,” Davis Jr. said. “So, I started doing it again and more people consistently started to follow me and I was getting terrific feedback, so I kept on it.”

From a handicapper’s perspective, the deluge of digital discussions has been very well received.

“In a competitive harness race, a horse that flies off the wings at 5-2 and gets an easy lead could be 4-5 fair odds at the quarter,” said handicapper Dean Towers, who operates the horse racing blog Pull The Pocket and tweets under the same name. “Conversely, if the same horse goes to 8th off the gate he could be upwards of 10-1 fair odds in a slow pace. If Billy Davis, Jr. or Jody Jamieson, for example, say that they are planning to ‘leave’ with a horse, it’s a handicapping nugget that is going to help me. For me, driver intent is a big part of handicapping.”

Towers also noted that technology has changed so much in the past decades that handicappers should use every piece of information to their liking.

“In the 1980′s, sitting in the grandstand you could get clues from score outs and warm ups,” recalled Towers. “If you are not live at the track now via simulcast, you are sometimes left wondering about driver and trainer strategy. At times, maybe three or four horses leave inside of them and they change strategy, and that’s racing, but knowing they like the horse and may want to take a shot is something players, I think, can use.”

Towers also uses a horse’s atypical performance to his advantage.

“Mainly if something happened out of the ordinary last race, such as sickness, lameness or equipment issues or the horse has been off an extra week or two; getting some details that you can’t read in the program is always helpful,” he said.

WEG’s track announcer Ken Middleton has been proactive since 2010 on Twitter, having sent out more than 8,000 tweets, and offers his bird’s eye view each night.

“One of racing’s biggest challenges has always been educating neophytes about handicapping and reading the program, and I feel Twitter is a great way for the all of us to simplify things,” Middleton said. “You get insight from trainers, drivers, grooms, owners, commentators, media people and announcers. You can’t give people enough information.

“Inundate the public with lots of information (stats, interviews, press releases, the ability to watch replays, historical information, Twitter, etc.) and let them decide what they want to use to help them in the art of handicapping or simply following the sport.”

Communication is a two-way street and Davis Jr. welcomes feedback from racing fans and enjoys engaging with them.

“I get messages all the time from racing fans and handicappers about a particular horse I’m driving,” he said. “They often ask questions or just want my input and I’m glad to relay the information to them. It’s a great way to get everyone involved. Drivers realize that it’s helping the business a bit more.”

Middleton is also open to a bit of online banter with the betting public.

“It’s nice to create dialogue with people in order to get ideas, opinions and feedback from our fan base,” he said. “It gives them a chance to share their opinions or ask questions, as well.”

Middleton believes that all racing fans and handicappers should join the Twitterverse to further their education and increase their chances of winning at the races.

“If I was a fan betting on the races, I would be trying to follow as many people as possible to get their opinions and insight,” said Middleton. “There are so many things the trainers and drivers are sharing – reasons for poor races, rationale behind shoeing or equipment changes, reaction from bad trips or bad drives in previous races or any other information that you can’t read in the program. I love the transparency and the effort put forth by a number of the trainers and drivers.”

While a single tweet is limited to 140 characters, there’s always room for more racing fans to catch up with the sport’s most insightful personalities.

It offers more than just a birds-eye view.

Fans can go to www.Twitter.com to sign into Twitter and then search for the following harness racing stars.

WEG’s Twitter Roster:

Drivers:
Billy Davis Jr. – @BillyDavisRacin
Phil Hudon – @Whodon99
Jonathan Drury – @JDruryRacing
Jody Jamieson – @JodyJamRacing
James MacDonald – @JamesOMac26
Anthony MacDonald – @HorseRacingAMac
Doug McNair – @DMcNair12
Scott Young – @YoungieAnswers
Scott Zeron – @ScottZeron

Trainers:
Carmen Auciello – @CarmenAuciello
Blair Burgess – @Desibesi
Casie Coleman – @FastLane111
Danny Girard – @DannyGirard1
Corey Johnson – @SeaJay09
Blake MacIntosh – @BlakeMacRacing
Robert McIntosh – @BobMcIntosh52

WEG Personalities:
Greg Gangle – @GGangle_WoMoh
Ashley Mayotte – @AMayotte_WoMoh
Ken Middleton – @Middleton_WoMoh
Dawn Lupul – @DLupul_WoMoh
Jason Portuondo – @Portuondo_WoMoh
John Siscos – @JSiscos_WoMoh

Racetracks:
Mohawk Racetrack – @MohawkRacing
WoodbineRacetrack – @WoodbineRacing

(WEG)

Wagering Jumps At Woodbine

Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) has announced the average nightly wagering handle on the 2012 Woodbine Standardbred meet, which concluded Monday, May 14, showed a solid 10.59% rise over last year.

An average of $1,493,112 was wagered per card over the 76 dates offered in the early part of the 2012 racing season.  The per card handle in 2011 averaged $1,350,134 in 75 dates.

The “all-sources” betting total this meet was $113,476,556.

“We are pleased with the continued growth of our product in the U.S. which is the main contributor to the increase in handle,” said Bruce Murray, WEG’s Vice President of Standardbred Racing.  “With the introduction of additional wagering options set to take effect with the Mohawk opener, we believe this trend will continue in a positive direction.”

At Woodbine, field size held steady at 8.9 horses per race in 2012, down slightly from the 9.0 figure in 2011.

On the track, driver Jody Jamieson and trainer Richard Moreau collected top honours in their respective divisions.

Jamieson, Canada’s Driver of the Year in 2011, notched 108 wins from 595 starters, while Moreau sent 61 horses to the winner’s circle from 293 starts.

Looking ahead to Mohawk, the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup is the most anticipated event on the stakes calendar and will feature the sport’s top three-year-old pacers. It is set for Saturday, June 16.

Other major race dates this summer include: the Maple Leaf Trot on Saturday, July 21; the Metro Pace and Canadian Pacing Derby on Saturday, September 1, and the Canadian Trotting Classic on Saturday, September 15.