May 29, 2015

‘Doors Open’ A Success At Woodbine

May 26, 2015 – Doors Open Toronto, presented by Great Gulf, offered free and rare access to more than 155 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city, including Woodbine Racetrack, this past weekend.

In honour of this summer’s Toronto 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games, this year’s Doors Open theme – Sports, Recreation and Leisure – showcased private and public recreational sites ranging from aquatic centres to athletics stadiums.

At Woodbine, guided bus tours of the private stable area, grandstand, the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, as well as other key spots on the racetrack’s 680 acres, were offered to fans.

Nearly 2,000 people signed up for Woodbine tours over the two-day extravaganza.

“Woodbine Entertainment Group would like to acknowledge the great outpouring of support by the Rexdale community and those across Toronto who came to visit Woodbine and all the other venues during Doors Open Toronto weekend,” said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group. “We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support of all that happens at Woodbine.

“I’m extremely proud of our employees and staff at Woodbine who went the extra step to show how great the racetrack really is,” Lawson said. “We also have to commend the efforts of the Doors Open Toronto organizers, who put on a terrific spectacle that displayed the city at its best.”


(Standardbred Canada)

Forty-Seven N.A. Cup Eligibles

May 26, 2015 -

The connections of 47 three-year-old pacing colts and geldings have made the final sustaining payment to remain eligible to the 2015 Pepsi North America Cup.
The $1 million Pepsi North America Cup is Canada’s richest harness race and will be contested on Saturday, June 20 at Mohawk Racetrack. The N.A. Cup is also the richest event for three-year-old pacers in North America.

The list of 47 remaining eligibles includes last year’s two-year-old champion Artspeak and the undefeated Wiggle It Jiggleit.

The 2015 Pepsi North America Cup will be the 32nd edition of Canada’s most prestigious harness race. Eliminations for the Pepsi North America Cup will be held on Saturday, June 13 at Mohawk.

The full list of the 47 sophomore pacing colts and geldings that remain eligible to the Pepsi North America Cup can be viewed below.




Total Horses: 47

Total number of eligibles following each payment:

February – 72
March – 63
April – 56
May – 47


Mohawk’s Jackpot Hi-5 Pays $156,427

May 26, 2015 -

A single winning ticket correctly selected the top five finishers in Monday night’s final race at Mohawk Racetrack to score a massive six-figure return on the Jackpot Hi-5.

In Monday night’s Jackpot Hi-5 race, 8-1 shot Lancaster Park reached the wire first to win by three-quarters of a length over 30-1 outsider The Fire Within. Following the race, The Fire Within was placed by the judges from second to sixth for causing interference in the stretch against Mac Raider.

The official top five finishers from Monday’s Jackpot Hi-5 race are as follows:

1. #7 Lancaster Park – 8/1
2. #1 Regal Sight – 22/1
3. #2 York Seelster – 25/1
4. #10 Pier Ho Temptation – 30/1
5. #3 Mac Raider – 2/1

A single ticket correctly selected the official top five finishers in order to hit the Jackpot Hi-5 and take home a payout of $156,427.84.

The entire Jackpot Hi-5 pool and carryover is only paid out when there is a single winning ticket. If there are multiple winning tickets, half of the Jackpot Hi-5 pool is paid out, while the other half is carried over to the following the card.

The significant Jackpot Hi-5 carryover heading into Monday night had been growing for a month. The last time a single winning ticket hit the Jackpot Hi-5 was just over a month ago on Friday, April 24 for a payout of $93,203.57.

The Jackpot Hi-5 will now start from scratch on Thursday evening’s card.

(Standardbred Canada)

New Owner Program Revived

There will be an extra buzz at Ontario racetracks this summer, as the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association renews the highly successful New Owner Mentoring Program.

For an investment of $4,500, nine people will have the unparalleled opportunity to be mentored by Hall of Fame horseman Bill O’Donnell and trainer Dustin Jones as they select an Ontario-sired yearling from the fall sales and train it through the winter in preparation for the 2016 racing season.

“We’ll educate them about the ground-up stuff, the grassroots stuff,” explains O’Donnell. “They might be fans that go to the races, but haven’t seen this side before.”

In addition to his years of expertise, O’Donnell will also contribute $4,500 to the partnership, and the SBOA will boost the group’s initial operating fund to $60,000 through a $15,000 forgivable loan.

“That will allow the group to buy their yearling — and it has to be an Ontario-sired yearling sold at an Ontario sale — and then the first year is covered for training and staking and whatever,” explains SBOA Vice President Tammy McNiven.

Horses from the first 11 new owner groups ranged from Grassroots performers to Gold Final winners, earning from $27,000 to $500,000, but one yearling did not make it to the races and McNiven emphasizes that there are no guarantees.

“It’s not something where we say you are going to get your money back,” she notes. “It’s a learning experience.”

Several graduates of the New Owner Mentoring Program have put their education to work purchasing additional racehorses or breeding stock, including Adriano Sorella. A part of the 2008 Ten Most Wanted Stable — whose M G Home Run earned $31,084 under the tutelage of trainer Casie Coleman and mentor Rick Kostoff — Sorella went on to co-own 2013 Little Brown Jug winner Vegas Vacation.

“We have had some success stories over the years,” says McNiven. “We hope we can get people interested, get some new people involved.”

Detailed information and application forms for the 2015 New Owner Mentoring Program are available on the SBOA website (, or by contacting McNiven at 519-475-4276 or

(With files from SBOA)

‘Doors Open’ At Hall Of Fame

May 20, 2015 – Looking for something to do this weekend? Visit the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and Woodbine Racetrack as they take part in ‘Doors Open Toronto,’ presented by Great Gulf.

This is your opportunity and to learn about the history and heritage of Canadian horse racing from historians and docents including Hall of Fame Founder/Director Emeritus, Lou Cauz; author and Hall of Fame Member, Bill Galvin; and harness racing ambassador, owner and super fan, Sydney Weaver.

See rare memorabilia and photos of iconic Canadian horses Northern Dancer and Cam Fella, test your trivia knowledge for the chance to win great CHRHF merchandise, and take your picture as a harness driver or jockey in the photo area.

Woodbine activities include backstretch bus tours starting at 10 a.m. each day, with behind the scenes tours beginning at noon. Also, don’t forget that there is a full card of Thoroughbred racing beginning at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Hall of Fame driver Ron Waples and Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley are also scheduled to make appearances.

Events take place this Saturday (May 23) and Sunday (May 24) from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, founded in 1976, offers visitors a one of a kind look into 250 years of rich history and heritage of both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred horse racing industry in Canada.

For further information on the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, visit and join the conversation via Facebook and Twitter (on Facebook, ‘Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame’; and on Twitter, @cdn_halloffame @woodbineracing @Doors_OpenTO and using the event hashtag #DOT15).

(Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame)

Mohawk Hosts Fireworks & Family Fun

May 15, 2015 -

The highly anticipated Fireworks and Family Fun Night returns to Mohawk Racetrack this Saturday and it promises to be a fantastic night of entertainment for all ages.

Doors open at 5 p.m. Saturday and fans will be greeted by live music and several of Mohawk’s top drivers upon their arrival to the track. Live racing will get underway at 6:45 p.m. and fans will be able to enjoy a ten-race card.

Racing is scheduled to conclude at approximately 10 p.m. and the spectacular fireworks show will begin shortly afterwards.

There will be an abundance of free activities all night for children, including face paintings, carnival games and balloon clowns. There will also be strolling entertainment acts, such as hula hoop artists, stilt walkers and illusionists, making their way throughout the grandstand.

Kids will receive a free reusable lunch bag with the purchase of a special $5 kids meal.

For racing fans looking to catch the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown will be shown live on the infield screen with full sound. Post time for the Preakness is approximately 6:20 p.m.

As always, admission and parking is free to Mohawk Racetrack.

For more information, visit

(Standardbred Canada)

New Concept For Drug Violations

May 14, 2015 -

The Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee (DTSP) of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) has voted to call for public comment draft rule language that would create a new paradigm for drug prosecutions and impose a ten-year exclusion for those guilty of the most egregious violations.

Under the draft rule commissions would question the trainer and veterinarian of a horse found to have been “excessively” administered any substance, as shown typically by the amount detected in the horses’ system as a result of a biological sample test, regardless of whether it was in or out of competition.

The trainer or veterinarian would be required to prove, as a defense, that any particular administration of a substance in an “excessive” amount did not actually endanger the welfare of the horse or affect racing performance.

Levels indicating an administration of a medication far in excess of the recommended dosage consistent with generally accepted veterinary care could be considered “excessive” and an overdose. Extremely high levels of endogenous substances indicative of an independent administration beyond consumption of dietary supplements or vitamins consistent with recommended levels could also be questioned.

“Those who run afoul of generally accepted veterinary practices by giving drugs or substances to a horse with no regard as the effect on the health of the horse or that can affect performance in a race will be on the hot seat as a result of this approach,” said Duncan Patterson, Chairman of the ARCI DTSP Committee.

ARCI President Ed Martin indicated that the proposal was developed as a result of commission tests revealing that some horses had cobalt levels fifty or a hundred times higher than what would be considered “normal” even after routine vitamin administrations. These horses were believed to have been injected with cobalt chloride and the test results caused regulatory veterinarians to question the impact and side effects on the health of the horses in question.

“Nobody should give anything to a horse unless you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is safe,” Martin said, noting that the draft rule would give regulatory veterinarians and commissions an important weapon to protect horses. “Nor should horsepersons, bettors, or casual fans tolerate anyone experimenting at any time with excessive doses of substances to horses just because the horse participates in horse racing,” he said.

Those developing the draft believe that commissions would no longer have to wait for research or adopted testing thresholds to be developed and enacted in order to take action when a licensee cannot prove that what they gave to a horse was safe and did not affected performance.

The DTSP Committee acknowledges that veterinarians have wide latitude under state veterinary statutes. The committee is concerned about the overuse and possible misuse of drugs or substances by some who might depart from acceptable veterinary practice in significant ways.

The draft rule can be found on the ARCI website and comments are being solicited from organizations and individuals.

The RCI Model Rules Committee will discuss this matter when it meets on July 15, 2015 in Deadwood, South Dakota.


(Standardbred Canada)

Woodbine Stakes Payments Due Friday

May 12, 2015 – The final sustaining fee to the Pepsi North America Cup and many of the Woodbine Entertainment Group’s (WEG) major stakes events are due Friday, May 15.

Sustaining fee payments are due Friday for the following stakes events.

• Pepsi North America Cup

• Canadian Trotting Classic

• Fan Hanover

• Elegantimage

• Goodtimes

• Metro Pace

• Shes A Great Lady

• William Wellwood Memorial

• Peaceful Way

• Nassagaweya

• Eternal Camnation

• Canadian Pacing Derby

• Maple Leaf Trot

• Roses Are Red

• Milton

• Armbro Flight

• Champlain & Simcoe Stakes (Foals of 2013)

Along with the sustaining fee payments, nominations close Friday to Mohawk’s ‘Summer Series’ events.

Two-year-olds can be nominated to the Dream Maker, Whenuwishuponastar, Define The World and Pure Ivory series. These two-year-old series offer as a great opportunity to develop and assess rookie pacers and trotters for sires stakes and Grand Circuit events.

Also a part of the Summer Series events are the Summertime for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings and the Town Pro for three-year-old pacing fillies.

Yearling nominations are also due Friday to the 2016 Champlain Open/Filly and the 2017 Simcoe Open/Filly stakes for foals of 2014. A nomination fee is due Friday for Ontario sired fillies foaled in 2014 to the 2017 WEG-SBOA Stakes.

To view the WEG Stakes Booklet and full information regarding all stakes events, click here.

All nomination fees and sustaining payments are payable to the Woodbine Entertainment Group and can be made online or by mail.

To make stakes payments online, click here.

If sending nominations or sustaining fees by mail, envelopes must be post-marked no later than said due date or payment will not be accepted. Registered mail is recommended.

Stakes payments to these stakes can also be made through SC Stakes Online. Click here for more info on how to get started.

(With files from WEG)

A PASSION FOR HORSE RACING & COMMUNITY Vision for the Future – Jim Lawson

May 11, 2015 – Jim Lawson, formerly the Chairman and newly-appointed CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, has a long and accomplished association with the sport of horse racing. His father, the late Mel Lawson, was a highly successful and high-profile thoroughbred owner/breeder, the man behind Jim Dandy Stable.

Lawson is currently the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Football League and has also served recently as the Commissioner of the CFL.

Lawson served over the course of his career as a Partner at Torys LLP and at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and as the Senior Vice President of XO Communications Canada. He was Co-Chair of the Finance and Real Estate Group at Torys LLP from 2001 – 2004. He has served on a number of public (Toronto Stock Exchange) boards including Algoma Steel Inc., Zargon Energy Trust and Countryside Power Income Fund. Lawson also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Stewards of the Jockey Club of Canada.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Lawson has an LLB from the University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor’s Degree (magna cum laude) in Economics from Brown University. He was also selected 120th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft.

By Chris Lomon 

TROT: In a perfect world, if everything goes exactly as you’d hope, what does horse racing look like in Ontario in 20 years?

LAWSON: Woodbine Entertainment Group would take a leading role in helping two things to happen. First, harness and horse racing more broadly, would again hold a leading place in the hearts of Ontarians and be an important part of our sporting life – up there with baseball, football and even hockey. Second, the harness racing and breeding industry would be self-sufficient and independent of government funding as this would mean we were running our business according to strong, long-term, and predictable funding models. The bottom line is that you need horses for this to work. That’s at the core.

It’s absolutely critical that everyone involved in the industry has confidence in its stability beyond three and five-year breeding cycles. We simply cannot lose the grassroots identity of the industry. I’m very sincere about this. I love the industry and I love the people who are part of it.

TROT: Similarly, what would the future of Woodbine be in 20 years?

LAWSON: Ultimately, we envision the Woodbine and Mohawk sites as vibrant entertainment destinations that will be the centres of economic activity and new jobs and a leader in North American top-class racing for both breeds.

We also need to reach out to that next generation, to attract them to our great sport. It’s a challenge, the same as it is in the Canadian Football League (CFL). When you get to a CFL game, there are fireworks – a really different approach than ever before. You need to be entertaining, to provide people with a great experience, in new and exciting ways. We need to be bold. We need to create buzz.

It is such a luxury to have two great racing venues in Woodbine and Mohawk. There is really nothing better than being at Mohawk on a Saturday night. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s fun. We want people to know that. We’re striving to improve that game-day experience, so to speak.

TROT: What is required to get there?

LAWSON: It’s important to first understand how we got to where we are today. Over the past few years, significant changes have taken place across the horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario. Remember that it wasn’t long ago – only in 2012 – the Slots-at-Racetracks program was cancelled. When that happened we were forced to quickly re-evaluate and re-imagine how to sustain a significant industry – one that supported over 55,000 jobs. WEG and the industry had to change. And we did – we came together to make big changes. In that time, a number of leaders from different facets of the industry have worked hard to ensure everything that has occurred has been done with the sole purpose of benefitting the industry.

I recently joined the Board of OHRIA. It’s vital that we work in unison to create success in the industry. It’s a partnership that everyone benefits from. It was critical that our collective efforts were focused on that single goal, or else we wouldn’t be in as stable a position as we are today. For our part, all of Woodbine’s net proceeds are reinvested back into the industry,our facilities, our employees, and our local communities.

We’ve also learned – through both the Slots-at-Racetracks program as well as through the Woodbine Live plan – that there is a symbiotic relationship between gaming and horse racing. For those of us who have been part of the horse business, we’ve long known this to be true.

But through those failed programs, we all experienced it firsthand. Gaming provides predictable revenues to secure the purses for our internationally recognized events and helps to draw in the most talented drivers, jockeys, trainers and horses in the world. In fact, for the communities who host racing and breeding facilities and for racing fans, the correlation between racing and gaming is accepted and even celebrated. This link between gaming and racing needs to become part of the discussion. I think we have seen a major step forward in the relationship between horse racing and gaming. We have an opportunity to move forward on that. It’s a breath of fresh air. WEG is a racing and entertainment company and we know gaming plays an important role in how we will grow and flourish.

But as of today, the correlation between racing and gaming hasn’t yet been cemented in the minds of government decision makers. As many know, last year we entered into a short-term transitional arrangement with the province, where we receive funds to support the industry. This funding was critical to our survival. But this five-year plan will end soon, as it is due for review in 2017, and will end in 2019.

What this means is that the deadline is quickly approaching where we must secure long-term and predictable revenues to protect what we have today and maintain the positive impact of our existing business.

Once we do this, the future and all of its possibilities open up.

TROT: What do you mean by ‘protect what we have today and maintain the positive impact of our existing business’?

LAWSON: When we look closer at the statistics, it really is amazing to see the impact Woodbine and Mohawk have within their local communities, the broader industry, and within Ontario.

For example, Woodbine is a major employer and entertainment destination in Toronto. Locally, Woodbine is responsible for the employment of more than 7,500 people in Toronto. About 5,000 of those jobs are based on-site in Rexdale. That’s 10% of the total workforce in Rexdale – equal to one of every ten jobs in a community that has seen a 26% decline in jobs over the last 10 years.

The influence of WEG standardbred racing is far reaching. From an entertainment perspective, Woodbine attracts more than 6 million visitors every year, helping to preserve and promote a unique cultural experience. We have 118 dates at Mohawk this year, maybe more in an expanded meet in the future.

Highlights include Mohawk hosting the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup final on June 20, the Canadian Pacing Derby and Metro Pace on September 5, the Maple Leaf Trot on September 19 and Woodbine is proud to host the Breeders Crown once again this year on October 24.

Our financial impact is also significant. OLG now contributes approximately $15 million to Toronto every year through the Slots at Woodbine operations, as well as the annual taxes that go to Toronto and Ontario.

TROT: What exactly is the vision for the Woodbine site?

LAWSON: Looking to the future, WEG’s intention is to move forward with a comprehensive development of both Woodbine and Mohawk, which is complementary to our core horse racing and breeding business.

As a racing and entertainment business, our vision includes many different potential elements that would add to our existing properties. These may include any number or combination of new performance spaces, restaurants, meeting spaces, or hotel rooms. Gaming will help make this future come to life.

But – and it is important to understand this point – right now, both the City of Toronto and the province are managing processes that will determine what the future of the Woodbine and Mohawk sites may be. We, at WEG, have to follow the processes through to the end to understand the scope and parameters the city and province want to set for what can be developed.

TROT: Who needs to lead the efforts to get you where you envision you can go?

LAWSON: As they say – it’ll take a village. We will need players from provincial and municipal governments to agree that the impact Woodbine and Mohawk makes is invaluable and worth protecting. From there, we will need decision makers from across government, industry, and our communities to come together and agree that the Woodbine site is a logical and exciting location for future development. With 600+ acres of space within the city limits it’s hard to imagine a better blank slate for creative and smart city building.

TROT: Why do you care about the industry? Why does it matter?

LAWSON: Beyond the very real impact on jobs, the economy and the industry we’ve already discussed, there is a very simple personal reason as well. I have spent my life in the racing industry – it has formed who I am and the values I have and share with my children. It is a privilege to have had this experience. Those in the industry know that it’s very hard to describe the level of passion and devotion of those who work hard to make it their livelihood – horse handlers, trainers, breeders – but my experience has permitted me to witness it first-hand. This passion drives WEG’s focus on ensuring the industry succeeds.

We have established WEG Cares (an initiative where WEG works with community organizations and causes that contribute to local neighbourhoods), but it is something that extends far beyond our community partners. WEG Cares is also about the people in the horse racing industry. That’s a very important message we want conveyed to the people that are part of our great sport.

(Standardbred Canada)

Lawson, Horner Apppointed At Woodbine

May 8, 2015 -

The Board of Directors of Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) today announced new appointments for Jim Lawson and Clay Horner.

Effective immediately, Jim Lawson takes the role of WEG’s Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Lawson held the position of WEG’s Chairman of the Board of the Directors from 2012 to 2015.

Clay Horner has also been appointed WEG’s Chairman of the Board following his previous role as Vice-Chairman of the Board, which he had held since 2006. Mr. Horner is Vice-Chair of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, a director of CI Financial Corp. and has owned race horses for over twenty-five years.

Nick Eaves, WEG’s former President and CEO, left the organization on March 31.

Mr. Horner’s first order of business was to announce Mr. Lawson as WEG’s CEO.

“Jim’s broad experience and expertise in business, his leadership record as Chairman of Woodbine and his lifelong passion for horse racing make him uniquely qualified to work effectively with industry stakeholders, our partners and our communities to strengthen our business and industry and to further capitalize on our assets and potential,” said Mr. Horner. “Jim is already fully engaged on our business priorities and growth opportunities.”

Mr. Lawson, currently the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Football League (CFL), recently served, until the end of April, as the Commissioner of the CFL. Additionally, he recently completed a five-year tenure as Chairman of the Jockey Club of Canada.

“My goal, as CEO, is to lead a team that will transform Woodbine Entertainment Group into a leading entertainment company,” said Mr. Lawson. “Achieving this goal will provide a long-term and sustainable foundation for the company and the horse racing and breeding industry.

“I have already relayed my cultural vision to the staff at Woodbine,” he continued. “I want to foster an environment that empowers all WEG employees to strive and achieve their very best so Woodbine Entertainment Group is ultimately successful in reaching its goals.”

Previous roles served over the course of Mr. Lawson’s career include: Partner at Torys LLP and at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Senior Vice President of XO Communications Canada, and Co-Chair of the Finance and Real Estate Group at Torys LLP. He has served on a number of public company (Toronto Stock Exchange) Boards including Algoma Steel Inc., Zargon Energy Trust and Countryside Power Income Fund.

Mr. Lawson is a graduate of Brown University, (A.B. Economics, magna cum laude) and University of Western Ontario (LLB).

(with files from WEG)