November 30, 2015

Major’s Road Map For Racing

October 15, 2015 - There will be big changes, but not many surprises when responsibility for regulating horse racing in the province transfers to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) over the next four or five months.

AGCO CEO Jean Major — who was also named the CEO of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) in July — provided a clear road map of where Ontario’s horse racing industry was headed when he was the CEO of the ORC from 1995 to 2004. In an hour-long interview with Ontario Horse Racing in early October, Major said his stance hasn’t changed.

“My personal philosophy aligns with the approach that regulators regulate and businesses run their businesses,” Major said. “I’m a regulator. My job is to understand the business, not to run the business… But I will listen to what’s important, what’s critical to it and then decide on a regulatory framework. That I understand. I can apply it and mold it to fit the risks, the conditions and whatever unique factors exist in that particular industry.”

On his first go-round at the ORC, Major spent considerable time and energy focusing the commission to its core function as a body that regulates the sport, protects the public interest and little more.

“I was a bit disappointed in the fact that we got back into the business of racing. But I totally understand why those decisions were made. I’m not second-guessing anybody’s decision to do so, but we had worked hard to try to separate the two,” he said.

It was under Major’s leadership the first time that the ORC spun off management of such industry programs as the $30 million Horse Improvement Program (HIP) to the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA). That critical racing and breeding incentive program that includes the Thoroughbred Improvement Program (TIP), the Standardbred Improvement Program (SIP) and the Quarter Horse Racing Industry Development Program (QHRIDP), found its way back to the ORC after Major left for the AGCO.

After all the legislative details are worked out at Queen’s Park to transfer the regulatory stewardship of the industry to the AGCO and dissolve the body known as the ORC, “the HIP program will be transferred to OHRIA,” Major said.

Before that can happen, one of Major’s top priorities will be to “make sure OHRIA is properly structured. What I’m looking for is the industry’s help to make OHRIA as representative as possible. My priority is assisting OHRIA in getting on its feet. I can’t get my other things in a row until that’s done.”

Major said the five-year, $500 million in industry funding from the government will be managed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). “Similarly, the race dates and all those issues related to that will be handed over to the OLG,” Major said.

The AGCO will enforce the Rules of Racing, Major said. But he wants to get the regulator out of the business of hearing appeals and establish an arms-length appeals board to hear cases involving fines and suspensions. That is not an indication Major will be soft on those that run afoul of the racing rules. He was responsible for strengthening penalties for infractions when he helped craft the Racing Commission Act of 2000.

“There’s a fundamental change in the approach to regulating. It’s not about a ‘gotcha’ kind of mentality. We’re not hiding in the bushes. Rather, the goal here is to make sure people are complying with the law. Those that don’t are the ones that get most of our attention,” Major said.

As for licensing appeals, subject to changes in the legislation governing horse racing approved by the Ontario Legislature, those decisions will go to an existing provincial body already set up for that function.

“That’s a body that hears appeals from 25 other statutes. In the morning they’ll do a real estate agent that had his license revoked and in the afternoon they’ll do a jockey’s license that got revoked, or a driver,” Major said.

He also wants to establish regulations that hold racetracks accountable for reinvesting in infrastructure.

“At some of the tracks I’m disappointed to see that not much has been done. They had the money for quite some time and what did they do? ‘Can’t you throw a can of paint at this, at least?’… Let’s not repeat those mistakes. I haven’t set my mind as to exactly what I will do, but certainly standards need to be established, but I’m not going to wade into the business standards and tell you how you price your hot dogs and what kind of menus you should have… Standards may be a helpful thing that regulators can help to enforce.”

In essence, Major wants the horse racing industry to manage its own affairs and determine its own destiny, with the AGCO as a guiding hand.

Major said he needs the industry’s help to make it all work. After the legislation is passed, he will be hitting the road in the New Year to speak to people in the industry.

“The merger will be affected by new legislation,” Major said. “The government/Legislature will decide whether to repeal the Racing Commission Act and introduce new legislation dealing with the regulatory powers of the AGCO in regulating horse racing. The government’s working on a bill now. I don’t have exact timelines, but sometime, I’m guessing in the fall, the bill will be introduced and then we go through the normal legislative process of first, second, third reading and so on.

“I don’t think people would object, conceptually, to the idea. It’s less government, more efficiency. The government’s been trying to move toward trying to integrate the business of gaming and racing. It makes sense that you would do the same on the regulatory side. So, the rough timelines, if everything works according to schedule would be April, which is our government’s fiscal year. That’s when the turnover could occur.”

(Re-published with permission from
(Standardbred Canada)

Standardbred Improvement Program

The Standardbred Improvement Program (SIP) is a component of the Ontario Horse Improvement Program which offers incentives for the breeding and ownership of Standardbred racehorses in Ontario.

Program Criteria

Detailed information and the rules surrounding the various program components are provided in the Standardbred Improvement Program Criteria Book which is published annually. It is the responsibility of all participants to make themselves aware of the eligibility requirements and the various opportunities under the Program.

2014 SIP Program Criteria Book [PDF]

Program Components

SIP offers incentives and rewards to breeders, owners and lessees of Ontario Bred and Ontario Sired horses primarily through two key programs:

Ontario Sires Stakes Program (OSS)

The OSS Program is a series of races for two-year-old and three-year-old horses sired by eligible Ontario Sires and nominated and sustained to the Ontario Sires Stakes program. There are two levels of racing in the OSS Program – Gold and Grassroots. Stallion Owners must register their Stallion by January 15th each year to be recognized as an Ontario Sire (Registration is allowed after January 15th by paying a late fee, provided the stallion has not bred any mares before registration). Owners of OSS eligible horses must meet all nomination, sustaining and entry requirements for the racing programs. Complete OSS Program information may be found

2014 Ontario Sires Stakes Racing Guide [PDF]

Ontario Resident Mare Program (ORMP)

Mare Owners (or Lessees) must enrol their mare(s) as an Ontario Resident Mare for each foal year, for their foals to be recognized as Ontario Bred. Enrolled mares must be resident in the Province of Ontario for a minimum of 180 days, including the date of foaling.

Breeders Rewards

  • Ontario Sired Rewards are distributed to eligible breeders of purse-winning two-year-olds and three-year-olds in Ontario Sires Stakes races.
  • Ontario Bred Rewards are available to Ontario Resident Mare owners/lessees with Ontario Bred purse-winning offspring racing in Ontario Sires Stakes races and selected open stakes races in Ontario.

2014 Eligible Selected Open Stakes [PDF]

Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA) $12 Million Enhancement Agreement

An additional $3 million will be paid out annually during 2015-2018 via Breeders’ Incentives, enhanced Ontario Bred Rewards, Leading OSS Divisional Performer Rewards and enhanced Stallion Rewards. For complete information, contact the SBOA at (519) 833-2861.

Purse Bonuses

Starting in 2015, a 20% purse bonus will be offered on two-year-old Ontario Sired overnight race earnings in Ontario and a 5% purse bonus will be offered on two-year-old Ontario Sires Stakes earnings.


All participants wishing to enroll mares or stallions in the Standardbred Improvement Program must hold a current Ontario Racing Commission licence. Contact the ORC at 416-213-0520, by email at or online at


Ontario Sires Stakes Program

2015 Standardbred Stallion Registration Form [PDF]
2015 Standardbred Stallion Conditions [PDF]

Ontario Sires Stakes Program forms should be submitted with all required payments to:
Ontario Horse Racing
90 Sheppard Ave E, Suite 200
Toronto ON M2N 0A4
Attention: Ontario Sires Stakes

Ontario Resident Mare Program

2015 Standardbred Mare Enrolment Form [PDF]
2015 Standardbred Embryo Transfer Donor Mare Enrollment Form [PDF]
2015 Transfer of Ontario Bred Rewards [PDF]

Ontario Resident Mare Program forms should be submitted with all required payments to:
Standardbred Canada
Attention: Ontario Resident Mare Program
1-2150 Meadowvale Blvd.
Mississauga ON L5N 6R6

Key Dates

Ontario Sires Stakes Stallion Registration January 15
Ontario Sires Stakes Three-Year-Old Sustaining Payments February 15
Ontario Sires Stakes Two-Year-Old Sustaining Payments March 15
Ontario Sires Stakes Yearling Nominations May 15
Ontario Resident Mare Program Mare Enrolment Prior to Foaling

Ontario Track Alliance Announced

The Ontario Horse Racing division of the Ontario Racing Commission has provided the Premier of Ontario and the province’s Minister of Agriculture & Food, Kathleen Wynne with this update on the progress in implementing the five-year Horse Racing Partnership Plan.

While the announcement does not include a racing calendar, it does officially announce the Ontario alliance tracks.

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Minister of Agriculture and Food
Government of Ontario

Dear Minister,

I am pleased to provide a further update on progress in implementing the Ontario Horse Racing Partnership Plan.

Under your direction, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) and its business development division – Ontario Horse Racing (OHR) – have been tasked with building a racing calendar for Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and Quarter Horses.

The Partnership Plan supports Ontario’s proud legacy of Standardbred racing and the thousands of jobs across the province with three distinct components;

- Traditional summer grassroots racing in rural Ontario.
- A long racing season at Rideau-Carleton Raceway.
- A year round circuit of top quality racing at eight core tracks.

While a robust Standardbred racing industry requires all three components, the cornerstone of the program is year-round, world-class racing that will attract a global audience and increase its fan base and wagering revenues.

To ensure a circuit of high quality racing is coordinated for the benefit of horsepersons and horseplayers, I am pleased to inform you that eight racetracks – Clinton Raceway, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Hanover Raceway, Mohawk Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District and Woodbine Racetrack – have united in a world-leading alliance.

This innovative and cooperative racing alliance has collectively determined there is greater benefit for the industry as a whole in working together to capitalize and succeed in presenting Ontario Standardbred racing to a global audience.

We have recently completed an agreement with the alliance tracks and are now ready to engage in discussions with horsepersons groups as the final step in preparation for an exciting season of racing featuring guaranteed purses and some of Ontario’s finest racehorses.

Partnerships are all about people and we continue to benefit from the passion, commitment and expertise of the Ontario racing community as we implement the Partnership Plan.

John Snobelen

(Standardbred Canada)

OHRIA Preparing An Industry Response To Transition Panel’s Preliminary Report

OHRIA has announced that it is currently preparing an industry response  to the Horse Racing Transition Panel’s Preliminary Report. For details, please see OHRIA’s complete press release below:

During the week of July 8 to 12, the OMAFRA Horse Racing Transition
Panel undertook a province-wide series of consultative sessions to
present their proposed plan for restructuring the Ontario horse racing
industry. The Panel (in partnership with Rod Phillips, CEO of Ontario
Lottery & Gaming (OLG) presented key elements of their plan at four
sessions (London, Toronto, Ajax and Ottawa) and to the public via WEBex
connection. The sessions were well attended, and provided an interesting
cross-section of views on the Plan proposed by the Panel.

OHRIA would like to thank those that participated in the consultation
sessions, and commend participants on their constructive input into the
Panel’s presentations. Many thoughtful and valuable suggestions came
forward from participants. However, there is still much work to be done
before there is a clear view of what the future of horse racing in
Ontario will look like.

OHRIA is currently developing an industry response to the Transition
Panel’s proposal, with specific focus on providing recommended options
on the subjects identified in the sessions. It is expected that OHRIA
will prepare a detailed submission to the Panel over the next few weeks.
We have received many responses and ideas from industry associations and
individuals, and we will examine and consider them in our response.

There is still an opportunity for any interested stakeholder (or other
parties) to submit their comments and feedback on the OMAFRA Transition
Panel proposal, and we would encourage you to do so an ask that you
please copy OHRIA at

A copy of the full report from the Horse Racing Industry Transition
Panel report “Toward a Sustainable Future – a Plan for Horse Racing in
Ontario” is available for viewing at:

Standardbred Canada website:
OMAFRA government website at:

Information on how to submit your comments to the Panel, are available
from the OMAFRA website at:

Sue Leslie
OHRIA President & Chair


Horse Racing Transition Panel Interviewed On “The Agenda”

The OMAFRA Horse Racing Transition Panel members are guests on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paiken for a segment which airs Tuesday night, December 4th.

The show features former cabinet ministers Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson discussing the challenges facing Ontario horse racing on the road to reinventing itself.

The video is available here:


“Save Ontario Horse Racing” Video Popular On YouTube

A popular “Save Ontario Horse Racing” video is now showing on YouTube:

Horwath, Hudak Oppose McGuinty’s Call For Prorogation Following His Resignation As Premier

According to October 15th interviews with the Toronto Sun, neither NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, nor PC Leader Tim Hudak supports Dalton McGuinty’s plan to prorogue Parliament in league with his surprise resignation announcement.

Prorogation could stymie legislature activities for six months while the scandal-ridden Liberals organize a Leadership Convention and try to regroup.

Horse racing leaders are currently scrambling to assess what the current political situation means for an industry that has been eagerly awaiting the OMAFRA Transition Panel’s Final Report. That document is expected to contain a formal plan to allow for the sustainability of horse racing and was to have been submitted to the government by mid-October.

See the Toronto Sun’s Andrea Horwath Interview here.

See the Toronto Sun’s Tim Hudak Interview here.

McMeekin Extends OMAFRA Transitional Panel’s Report Deadline Until Mid-October

Ontario Minister of Agriculture Ted McMeekin has announced that the OMAFRA Panel  charged with recommending the path ahead for a sustainable Ontario horse racing industry has requested more time to complete its deliberations.

The Panel’s final Report had been due on September 30th, but is now expected around mid-October.

Breeders with yearlings in the Forest City Sale had been  praying for a concrete government commitment  prior to that London auction on October 13-14. Any positive news before that Sale now seems extremely unlikely.

McMeekin’s Press Release appears below:

September 27, 2012

The horse racing industry transition panel has asked me, on behalf of itself and the industry, for additional time to complete its work. The panel members have told me that they are encouraged by the industry’s willingness to work together on a successful transition to a more self-sustainable business model.

The panel wrote:

We have been engaged with the industry and believe we have made substantive progress on delivering on our mandate. In fact several representatives of the industry have given us written proposals on a way forward. We recognize that the horse racing industry is at a crossroad and has challenging decisions to make as it considers its future opportunities.

In order to deliver a comprehensive final report with thoughtful recommendations to the government, we need additional time. On behalf of the panel and the industry we request up to another two weeks to explore details of how such a model would work. We are optimistic that there is the potential to develop a framework that could work for both the industry and government.

I have agreed to the panel’s request and look forward to receiving its final report, in mid-October.

The Honourable Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

MPP Natyshak Asks Minister McMeekin For a Timeline On Future Of Ontario Horse Racing

MPP Taras Natyshak asked Minister of Agriculture Ted McMeekin during Question Period for a more specific timeline on the future of Ontario horse racing.

You can read the transcript of the exchange here.

Liberal MPP Liz Sandals Says There’ll Be No New Slots Deal For Horse Racing

Guelph MPP Liz Sandals is adamant that there’ll be no new Slots deal for Ontario’s racetracks.

Sandals downplayed the economic impact of the Liberal government’s decision on her local county of Wellington in a recent article in The Guelph Tribune.

Read the complete article by clicking here.