July 1, 2015

Celebrate Canada’s Best

June 30, 2015 - Have you ever wanted to ask Bill O’Donnell about winning the richest race in harness racing, find out from Dr. Glen Brown what it was like to be the owner of Fan Hanover, or ask caretaker Sarah Scott about her special bond with Rocknroll Hanover? Here’s your chance!

The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and I Love Canadian Harness Racing Fan Club will host a special meet and greet with these Hall of Famers and more on Saturday, July 18 at Mohawk Racetrack from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

See and learn more about memorabilia displays like the Armstrong Bros. Trophy Showcase, the Somebeachsomewhere display, the Dr. Glen Brown showcase, a display case honouring Admirals Express and a cherished collection of items from Rocknroll Hanover’s career.

There will also be a Silent Auction of harness racing memorabilia and a raffle to win a framed, limited edition Somebeachsomewhere print by Canadian equine artist Linda Shantz, all to benefit the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Watch for updates on Silent Auction items and the roster for the Meet and Greet!

OLG Pens Letter To Horse Racing

June 26, 2015 - In a letter dated Thursday (June 25), representatives from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) provided an update on the process of integrating horse racing with the province’s gaming strategy.

The letter appears below.

A Message To The Ontario Horse Racing Industry

For the first time, representatives from the horse racing industry, the Government of Ontario and crown agencies are working together in support of a sustainable industry.

Following government direction first announced in October 2013, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA), are working with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Racing Commission, government and the broader horse racing industry on a number of initiatives that will help develop the industry and grow the horse racing customer base. The government, OLG and OHRIA restated their support for integration at a meeting in February 2015.

The overall goal of integration is to build the foundation for a sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario, but achieving that goal will take time and a significant amount of work. For many months, OLG and OHRIA have been working with the government to lay the groundwork for success.

As part of this collaborative effort, a committee structure has been established to guide the many areas involved in integration. Comprised of senior representatives from both OLG and the industry, the Horse Racing Industry Executive Committee is providing decisive leadership and guidance by:

  • Creating a business model for integration that is focused on stability
  • Determining an appropriate funding framework to ensure long-term sustainability
  • Providing advice to the government and supporting future legislative changes
  • Partnering with the industry to optimize branding and build public awareness about horse racing
  • Reviewing and assessing new horse-themed gaming products

The Industry Executive Committee meets bi-weekly. Joining us on the committee are: Preet Dhindsa (OLG), Richard Carson (OLG), Michael Keegan (OLG), Tina MacMillan (OLG), Jean Major (AGCO), John Snobelen (Ontario Horse Racing), Steven Lehman (Ontario Racing Commission), Jim Lawson (Woodbine Entertainment Group) and Hugh Mitchell (Western Fair District).

Our committee is supported by the work of other groups, including the Interim Governance Committee (IGC). Chaired by John Snobelen, the IGC is developing options for improving industry self-governance and is building the capacity necessary for effective partnerships with OLG. Read a recent update from John here.

One of our committee’s objectives is to begin to communicate regularly with members of OHRIA and the public about the progress being made on integration so that we can build a narrative to increase confidence in the long-term future of horse racing. We are working together on several initiatives and will have more to discuss in the coming weeks.


Stephen Rigby, President and CEO, OLG and Chair of the Industry Executive Committee

Sue Leslie, President and Chair, OHRIA and member of the Industry Executive Committee


Woodbine Donates $100K To Hospital

June 27, 2015 - The Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) has announced its support of the Milton District Hospital’s (MDH) expansion project with the donation of $100,000 to the MDH Foundation’s Our Home Our Hospital Campaign, in a special celebration with community members at Mohawk Racetrack on June 27.

WEG’s $100,000 gift to the MDH Foundation’s capital campaign will be matched by the Orlando Corporation through a matching challenge of up to $5 million.

“The MDH continues to have a significant impact and importance on the many people who depend on the hospital,” said Helen Vatistas, an executive director with MDHF. “Everyone in the area and surrounding communities is influenced by the hospital and the services it offers. Through the generosity, kindness and longtime support of organizations like WEG, we will be able to provide even more critical services to people in need.”

To recognize WEG’s support in the expansion of the Milton District Hospital, the Fracture Room, part of the hospital’s Emergency Department, will be named, ‘Woodbine Entertainment Group.’

“We are extremely proud to support both the MDH and the community in this critical expansion of the hospital,” said Jim Lawson, WEG’s chief executive officer. “Through our WEG Cares program, we are able to leverage the power of horse racing to assist and work within the communities in which we operate to create better places to live, learn and gather together.”

The Milton District Hospital expansion will add 330,000 square feet of space to the existing 125,000 square foot hospital. The project will address the needs of all with a focus on meeting the needs of those living in Milton, the fastest-growing community in Canada.

Project highlights include the expansion of emergency and surgical services, medical/surgical inpatient units, critical care, maternal newborn and diagnostic imaging and support services, overall capacity increase from 63 to 129 inpatient beds, and the addition of the hospital’s first Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine.

(Standardbred Canada)

State’s horse-racing industry being threatened by potential for Internet gaming: PennLive letters

June 29, 2015- Each year, Pennsylvania’s agriculture and horse racing industries pour billions of dollars into Pennsylvania’s economy and support tens of thousands of jobs. These benefits enjoyed by so many Pennsylvanians are being threatened by state Senate Bill 900, which would allow for Internet gaming.

Since Pennsylvania expanded gaming in 2004, racetrack casinos have designated slots revenue to the Race Horse Development Fund, leading to important growth in our horse racing industry without relying on a single taxpayer dollar. That growth has benefited countless farmers who sell materials necessary for horse racing. According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, horse owners and trainers reinvested approximately 89 percent, or $210 million, of monies paid from the Race Horse Development Fund into their local economies. As currently written, Senate Bill 900 would allow Internet gaming to bypass this fund, which would damage much of the progress made since 2004, when expanded gaming was designed to rescue Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.

A recent study published in the University of Nevada Las Vegas Gaming Research and Review Journal found that Internet gaming cannibalizes commercial casino revenues by 27 to 30 percent. In Pennsylvania, this would have a devastating impact.

Pennsylvania got it right in 2004. We know this because Ohio and Maryland have used Pennsylvania’s Race Horse Development Fund as a model for their states. Internet gaming has its place, but it shouldn’t hurt Pennsylvania farmers and working families.

Critical Horse Shortage Has Meadowlands Owner Considering Drastic Changes In Racing Schedule Next Year

June 29, 2015- The owner of the Meadowlands Racetrack is concerned about the immediate future of his operation due to a critical horse shortage and is considering making major changes in the racing schedule next year.

Jeff Gural told Harness Racing Update that the horse situation is so acute, he may resort to festivals instead of race cards in June next year to make money or drastically alter the stakes schedule in favor of overnights.

This Sunday, the Meadowlands will host Life In Color, which is taking place in 130 cities in more than 50 countries celebrating the origin of color. It’s essentially a huge paint party with music, but it may be a prelude of the type of entertainment Gural plans for his track next year if he can’t attract more horses to make the racing attractive to the betting public.

“I don’t have enough horses,” Gural said. “When you look at this weekend, I think we have one 10-horse race out of 25. That’s a killer for me. If the industry is not going to support me entering their horses, that’s a real problem and, truthfully, it’s not one I was anticipating.

“I think it’s only going to get worse,” he added, claiming the situation has been caused by a lack of industry leadership. “We should sit down and try to come up with a new schedule so that we could all survive. That’s not likely to happen, so I guess I’m the odd man out and that’s a real problem.

“If I had the horses, I’d be okay. We’re doing much better with food and beverage sales. I’ve got to try to bring some more concerts. If I can get some more concerts, I’ll just cancel the racing and have concerts on the weekends in June (next year). I’m not being facetious. It’s not fair to me that I should have to race without having enough horses to race. It’s not a problem for the (horsemen) if I have a concert – they can race at Pocono, or Chester or Yonkers – it’s a problem for me if I don’t have horses. If I have concerts, I don’t see that as a problem.

“The other option is to cut way back on the stakes program and have more money for overnights that are a lot more competitive with Pennsylvania. But I think that would hurt the breeders and I’m reluctant to do it.

“I have to hope that the concert on Sunday goes well. We have some people coming in this weekend to scout for concerts and we have to co-ordinate with the stadium. It’s a complicated thing. My situation is only going to get worse, and unless the industry is willing to work together I’m in trouble – and my guess is the industry is not (willing to work together).”

Gural’s comments come in the same week as a major announcement in Pennsylvania to invest $1.6 million in the state’s harness racing industry, which will boost purses and help the breeding industry. The money will be geared toward the 2015 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes finals and consolation races this year and newly-created races next year for three-year-old filly pacers and colts next season.

Gural looks at the situation in Ontario, where the industry has recovered somewhat after the province cancelled the lucrative Slots At Racetrack Program in April, 2014 after it annually produced hundreds of millions of dollars for the racetrack and the racetrack operators and the provincial government coffers. Many horsemen were forced out of the industry because of the move, which was ill-conceived. However, the Government adopted a new five-year, $400 million program last year to give the industry some stability. Additionally, the racetracks had to work together as part of the agreement instead of working in isolation, thereby eliminating some of the dog-eat-dog behavior.

Gural would love to see some of that co-operative attitude created in the U.S. – albeit it’s a lot harder because of the variety of states and racing jurisdictions.

“Ontario is in much better shape because they work together,” he said. “You see the results. They co-ordinate their race dates, they work together so they’re seeing positive results, which is exactly what would happen if we did that, but it won’t happen here because you have different states where (in Ontario) there’s one basic governmental structure.”

Gural has also been concerned about what will likely be a delay in his hope to have a casino at the Meadowlands. A couple of weeks ago, the Meadowlands and the Hard Rock company unveiled plans for a future casino. Before that can happen, New Jersey State lawmakers have to work on an amendment to allow casino gambling in the state beyond the city limits of Atlantic City.

“I really thought we’d get it this year,” he said. “I just didn’t realize how politics run in New Jersey and now I know, so I know what I have to do next year. I don’t think lobbying helps at all. I think we have to put pressure on from the public. That’s the only thing that can work. I also think Atlantic City will just go broke and at some point they’ll just need us. But I could be wrong.

“I think I will be successful in getting a casino, but it may take a year or two,” he said. “But long term I think we’ll be fine. Not having the amendment on the ballot is a real disappointment because this probably would have been the best year for us to get it passed. Next year is a presidential election and it would be much harder to get our message out.”

He said if the Meadowlands does not get a casino in say 10 years and the horse shortage situation becomes worse, he will look to do something else with the plant.

“I would look to race thoroughbreds, quarter horses, cars, something,” he said. “The place is too nice to just shut down. People like coming here. It’s a cool place. I’ll find a use for the place. I’m not all that worried about that, but I got into this because I love harness racing and not because I love aggravation.

“I’m in it for the duration, I’m not a quitter,” he insisted. “But unless the breeding game changes, there won’t be enough horses 10 years from now to race anywhere. When you see that the number of mares bred is half of what was bred 10 years ago that means that half of the people working in the industry today will be without jobs in 10 years. Whether Jeff Gural is alive or dead, that’s a certainty because there aren’t going to be enough horses.”

(Harness Racing Update)

Record Handle For N.A. Cup Night

June 23, 2015 - The 2015 Pepsi North America Cup not only set a Canadian record on the track, it was also the highlight of a record-setting evening Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack.

A handle of $4,292,777 on Saturday’s 15-race card broke the previous North America Cup card handle record of $3,820,598 set in 2005 at Woodbine. Saturday night’s wager was up 24.9 per cent over the all source wager of $3,437,076 in 2014.

A total of $681,716 was wagered on the Pepsi North America Cup race, a 43.8 per cent increase over the race handle on the 2014 edition.

On track, Mohawk Racetrack was packed from wall to wall with an attendance of approximately 12,000 people, which helped elevate the on track handle 20.6 per cent in comparison to last year’s Cup.

Wakizashi Hanover’s victory in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup was also a Canadian record for a three-year-old pacing gelding on a seven-eighths mile track, one tick better than Michaels Power’s 1:48.1 mark.

Fans and horseplayers were entertained all evening with a fantastic card of harness racing, live music, food trucks and giveaways.

The hashtag #NACup was a top trend on social media in the Toronto area Saturday evening and was also trending across Canada.

Live harness racing continues at Mohawk every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday all summer long. Post time each night is 7:25 p.m.

(with files from WEG)

(Standardbred Canada)

Expanding Gambling At Woodbine Could Bring In $14M: Staff Report

June 24, 2015- A staff report concludes expanding gambling at Woodbine Racetrack could generate an extra $14 million a year in revenue for the city of Toronto.

The debate over the controversial issue will take place at next week’s executive committee.

Right now, Woodbine has about 3,000 slot machines. Expansion could see the number of slots jump to 5,000 with up to 300 live dealer tables.

City staff are recommending approval of the proposal.

The executive committee agreed to reopen the discussion last month after the proposal was originally voted down by council in 2013.

Mayor John Tory said he is open to the idea of expanding Woodbine Racetrack as long as it means more jobs and economic development in the area.

“I believe that you do look at expanded gaming at Woodbine as a catalyst,” he told reporters last month, adding he believes the issue of gambling addictions should be treated separately.

“I’m deeply concerned about addictions of all kinds … I think if we want to address the issue of people and their issues with gambling, we should go ahead and do that … separate and apart from what is already going on at Woodbine.”

(City News)

Ohio Committee Passes Whip Rules

June 24, 2015- Harness racing drivers in Ohio face stiffer penalties and more restrictions on the use of whips under a new rule that passed through the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review on Monday, June 23.

After fielding opposition and proponent testimony, JCARR members declined not to take action to delay or sidetrack the rule, clearing the way for its implementation by the Ohio State Racing Commission.

The rule outlines on which areas of the horse’s body a whip may be used, specifies the types of whips to be used and clarifies what amount of force a driver can use. Drivers that violate that rule can face penalties including fines up to $10,000, disqualification or loss of placement.

The new rule specifically forbids ‘excessive, indiscriminate, visibly injurious or abusive use of the whip’ and states, in part, that drivers must:

  • Keep a line in each hand from the time the rider is behind the starting gate to the end of the race;
  • Whip only with elbow or wrist action and not raise the whipping arm above the driver’s shoulder height;
  • Not move whipping arm in an exaggerated manner and shall ensure the line remains reasonably taut during the race;
  • Not use the handle of a whip on a horse;
  • Not use the whip on a horse that is tired, not visibly responding or on a horse not in contention in a race.

Although the JCARR staff determined the rule could have an adverse impact on businesses – because of the potential of fines and other penalties – the impact was found to be justified.

“Internal agency experts determined that the new rule may cause significant loss to the licensees who become disqualified or lose their placement,” according to the rule’s fiscal analysis. “This cost can be several thousand dollars depending on the potential purse money lost.”

Renee Mancino, executive director of the Ohio Harness Horseman’s Association, said in opposing the rule that in addition to drivers, the rule will hurt owners – who she said rarely hire the drivers – who find themselves losing out on winnings if their horse is disqualified or loses a place. She also argued the move will adversely impact horse players who bet on a winning horse only to see that horse disqualified due to the new rule.

“The adverse impact can happen even if a driver chooses to avoid a rule violation,” Mancino said, questioning whether judges will apply the rule fairly in different situations. “It’s not that it’s just something you can look at like ‘If they just choose to follow the rules they’ll be OK.’”

Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) asked Mancino how the proposal compares to similar rules in other states.

“It’s in line with what other states have passed for the most part,” Mancino said. “It doesn’t provide as much detail as other states do. Those states provide penalty charts. We don’t even have a reliable penalty chart so it’s kind of hit or miss what a driver will be penalized for.”

Advocates, on the other hand, argued the rule is adequately specific and clarifies existing rules.

Robert Schmitz, chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission, told committee members the rule is to prevent horses from being cut with whips. It’s an occurrence he said that “happens quite a bit.”

“The primary purpose of that rule is for the humanity of the animal,” he said. “That is the direction a number of jurisdictions are going on, headed toward in this country.”

Responding to a question from JCARR Chair Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), Schmitz said the commission could consider a penalty chart but that it has gotten along fine without one thus far.

Several committee members questioned how fines are doled out under the current rules. Schmitz said three judges – including a head judge and two associates – can assess a fine by a majority vote. The driver then has the option to appeal with the commission, which has the ability to increase the fine.

If that appeal fails, Schmitz said, the driver can appeal through the court system.

“I’m not against using a whip,” Schmitz said. “I think you have to have a whip to control a horse. There’s no doubt about that.”

But when it comes to whips cutting horses, he said, “It happens more frequently than you’d imagine.”

(Standardbred Canada)

‘Wakizashi’ Wins North America Cup

June 20, 2015 - Wakizashi Hanover defeated the 2-5 favourite Wiggle It Jiggleit to win the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday, June 20 at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont.

Wakizashi Hanover converted off a perfect pocket trip to prevail over world champion and previously undefeated Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) in a career-best time of 1:48 flat while Betting Exchange (David Miller) finished third.

Tim Tetrick drove the Dragon Again-Western Gesture gelding for trainer Joann Looney-King and the Tri County Stable of Truro, N.S.

Leaving from post three, Wiggle It Jiggleit crossed over in front of fellow elimination winner and post two starter Wakizashi Hanover through a :25.1 stakes record tying first quarter. Meanwhile, Penji Hanover (Chris Christoforou) and the reigning divisional champion Artspeak (Scott Zeron) remained parked out after leaving from their assigned outside posts. Wiggle It Jiggleit continued to lead the field past the half in :53.3 and three-quarters in 1:21 while Artspeak fanned wide off fading cover. As the field turned for home, Wakizashi Hanover tipped out from the two-hole at the top of the stretch and wore down Wiggle It Jiggleit for the three-quarter-length victory with a :26.4 final frame.

The 1:48 clocking came within one-fifth of a second of the track and Canadian record for three-year-olds while establishing a new gelding record.

“It worked out perfect,” said Tetrick of his winning trip. “I got to follow a really good horse and the horse did the rest. My horse tipped and we got the job done. He’s a nice colt. The connections have done a great job with him. I appreciate them letting me drive the horse. He’s versatile. He’s a good horse and he’s got tons of speed.”

“Well, I feel like we’re the new Sheriff in town!” beamed an emotional Looney-King in the winner’s circle. “And you know, everybody said we weren’t good enough…it’s just overwhelming to show people that this is the good horse that we thought he was.”

Wakizashi Hanover had earned five wins and four seconds in 10 career starts competing solely in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes program before tackling the sport’s top three-year-olds male pacers in the North America Cup eliminations and final.

Bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, Wakizashi Hanover was purchased for $23,000 at the Harrisburg sale as a yearling by his Maritimes ownership group consisting of Percy Bonnell, Scott Bowen, David Bugden, Wayne Burley, David Chabassol, and Bruce Kennedy. After working with trainer Gordon Corey in Pinehurst, North Carolina, the gelding joined Looney-King’s stable.

“As a two-year-old, we knew he was okay. We knew right from the start he was okay,” said Looney-King, who operates a stable out of Harrington, Delaware with her husband Jim King Jr. “He was lightly raced as a two-year-old and we knew when he came back as a three-year-old he was going to be good. We knew it, he was just a good horse.”

Wakizashi Hanover provided Tetrick with his second driving victory in the North America Cup over the past three years. He also won the prestigious race in 2013 with Captaintreacherous.

“When Tim came to Delaware and he came to Harrington, we became very good friends with Tim and love Tim like a son,” said Looney-King. “He is the best driver, we feel, on planet earth. He’s the best and he’s been a big, big force in this horse’s success.”

Sent postward as the 5-1 third choice on the toteboard, Wakizashi Hanover paid $13.40 to win. The complete order of finish was: Wakizashi Hanover, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Betting Exchange, the other elimination winner In The Arsenal, Artspeak, Hurrikane Ali, Arque Hanover, Yankee Bounty, Penji Hanover and Good Friday Three.

“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened in my life, bar none!” exclaimed Looney-King.

“Lots of supporters calling, sending messages in the last two days, it’s just been phenomenal,” said Kennedy. “We’re living a dream. Three of the six people are brand new owners, never owned a horse before. What a way to start a career. Now they’re hooked, I hope.

“We’ve got a great trainer in Joann Looney-King and her husband, Jim, and we have a great relationship. We’re all small time operators. I don’t know how you get Tim Tetrick as a driver, but we did. We had the package coming in.”

Click here for complete coverage of the Pepsi North America Cup undercard consisting of the $75,000 North America Cup Consolation, the $479,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies, the $233,000 Goodtimes Trot for three-year-olds, the $272,000 Armbro Flight Stakes for older trotting mares, the $350,000 Roses Are Red Stakes for older pacing mares, $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational Pace, and a pair of Preferred events.

Important Links

  • Entries - Saturday’s overnight sheet
  • Results - Saturday’s racing results
  • Program Pages - past performance program page for each race, courtesy of TrackIT
  • News - all the previews and recaps leading up to Canadian harness racing’s richest prize
  • Handicapping Tips - advice and selections from WEG’s handicapping experts
  • Live Video - watch the races via live streaming online

(Standardbred Canada)

Clenbuterol Elimination Guideline Change

June 18, 2015 - On Thursday, June 18, the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency issued a memorandum to provincial regulatory bodies, Canadian horse racing associations and horsepeople’s groups in regard to changes to the elimination guideline for Clenbuterol.

The contents of the memo appear below.

An official copy of the memo can be accessed by clicking here.

SUBJECT: Changes to the elimination guideline for CLENBUTEROL

This memo is to inform the horse racing industry of upcoming changes to the elimination guideline for CLENBUTEROL.

1. The current elimination guideline for the 0.40 mg oral dose given twice daily for 5 days of clenbuterol (Ventipulmin) contained in the 2011 edition of the Schedule of Drugs booklet will be increased from 72 hours to 168 hours (7 days).

2. CPMA is temporarily removing the elimination guideline for the 0.30 mg intravenous single administration until further studies are completed.

3. The 0.32 mg oral single administration will no longer have an elimination guideline.

There are several medications that may be used as alternatives for clenbuterol. The CPMA provides elimination guideline for some of these substances in the 2011 Schedule of Drugs.

To allow ample time for the industry to adjust to the new elimination guidelines, these changes will come into effect on September 1, 2015 and will be reflected in the next version of the Schedule of Drugs booklet expected to be released later this year.

As always, the CPMA recommends that owners and trainers consult their own veterinarian for advice and guidance in the use of all drugs.

(CPMA/Standardbred Canada)