October 24, 2016

Ontario Racing Webinar Info Posted

October 19, 2016 – The information presented by Ontario Racing in its webinar regarding the proposed long-term funding framework for horse racing in the province is now available.

The slides from the webinar are presented below, or available here.

This framework, subject to government approval, will be presented to the industry for feedback. If approved, this framework will provide the industry as a whole – from owners, trainers and breeders to racetrack operators – with the certainty they need to make investments in their businesses.

OR’s primary objective, to this point, has been to engage directly with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the government to provide input to the development of a roadmap to sustainable funding for the industry. Now, OR’s focus will shift towards engagement with the industry as a whole to garner feedback on this proposed framework.

This proposed framework is based on key principles including:

  • A new racetrack alliance: all Ontario racetracks that conduct live racing will be invited to create a new alliance. It is proposed that Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) will serve as the administrator of this new alliance.
  • Longer-term, predictable funding: Ontario’s horseracing industry can invest in their businesses beyond 2021.
  • Ongoing accountability and transparency: decision-making based on evidence and agreed upon success indicators.
  • Industry leadership: racetrack business plans, race dates, purse levels will be aligned across racetracks for a coordinated approach. Ontario Racing will play a key industry leadership role in the future.

Next steps include widespread ‘in person’ conversations with the industry about these principles, across Ontario. Sessions will take place in every region of the province that has horse racing, starting next week and taking place throughout the month of November. (dates subject to change)

  • Monday, October 31 – 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Toronto (Holiday Inn – Toronto International Airport)
  • Tuesday, November 1 – 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Hamilton (Flamboro Downs)
  • Wednesday, November 9 – 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – (Hiawatha Horse Park)
  • Sunday, November 13 – 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – London (Western Fair Raceway)
  • Wednesday, November 16 – 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Ottawa (Rideau Carleton Raceway)
  • Saturday, November 19 – 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Port Perry (Location TBD)
  • Tuesday, November 22 – 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Milton (Gambrel Barn, Country Heritage Park)

Industry participants can also provide feedback by answering consultation questions online on the Ontario Racing website.

Ontario Racing will collate feedback from the industry, and this perspective will inform recommendations to government.

(with files from Ontario Racing)

(Standardbred Canada)


October 17, 2016 – The privilege of experiencing time alone with horses is something that many in this industry may take for granted. For some, it’s so much more. By Chris Lomon

It’s a scene Constable Maureen Andrew has witnessed countless times, but something she never tires of seeing –- the almost immediate bond between horse and human.

As one of the founders of HOPE (Horses Offering People Encouragement), a therapeutic horsemanship program that unites retired racehorses with the community’s most vulnerable citizens, Andrew marvels at the interactions that take place, connections that don’t always involve verbal communication.

And while she admittedly can’t differentiate between a pacer and a trotter, Andrew’s affinity and appreciation for the retired horses utilized by HOPE through the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society (OSAS) — who assist with the adoption and relocation of retired and non-racing standardbreds within Ontario — continues to grow.

“This program and the horses, they fill a void,” said Andrew, who works with Halton Regional Police Service’s COMMANDE (Community, Mobilization and Engagement) policing initiative. “It’s medicine for the soul. Perhaps they didn’t make the grade on the racetrack, or they’ve had to contend with an injury, but these horses, through OSAS, are given a second opportunity. Sometimes you see that hopelessness, a loneliness in their eyes, but with HOPE, they can make a connection with people. When they look at each other, eyes light up.”

It’s a common occurrence for the program that was originally a five-week pilot project launched in 2014 in partnership with LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society, Woodbine Entertainment Group and COMMANDE, ‘which encourages and supports community involvement and social development in order to have a sustainable effect on community safety, security and wellbeing through non-traditional programs.’

HOPE has grown significantly in scope and stature since then. This year, there will be six sessions offered, three for adults and three for elementary-aged children. Each session runs two hours, one day a week, for six weeks.

Participants receive hands-on training in basic horsemanship skills like grooming, herd dynamics and horse anatomy, all from experienced horse caretakers.

After originally teaming with Windrush Farm, the site where program participants would gather, HOPE is now partnered with the 30-acre High Stakes Farm, located in Moffat, run by Standardbred Canada Chair of the Board and COSA (Central Ontario Standardbred Association) Director, Joanne Colville.

“We’re able to offer a great deal of variety to people,” said Colville. “We have horses of all sizes, and we have rabbits as well as other animals. It’s a modern day petting zoo. There’s also a pond if people just want to enjoy the serenity of country life. We want people to feel comfortable and welcome when they are here.”

While plenty has changed for HOPE — whose financial sponsorship comes from Woodbine Entertainment Group and COSA — in a relatively short period of time, moments like Andrew described are still commonplace.

“There was a horse –- we’ve named her Jewel — that Joanne has on her farm,” started Andrew. “She was a little standoffish at first, maybe a little scared or overwhelmed by things. There was one girl – Jewel wouldn’t come to anyone else -– but they just came together. The girl went up to her, not a word was said, and Jewel put her head on her shoulder. It went on for 10-15 minutes. It was incredible.

“When we asked her if she was talking to the horse, she looked up and said, ‘No, we’re just together.’ There were tears in everyone’s eyes. The kids -– they are just incredible.”

Andrew affords the same compliment for the Standardbreds.

“In many instances, there is something missing for these people,” she said. “These horses help change that. Whatever people need the program to be, it is.”

Jan Johnson would certainly know.

Her 26-year-old daughter, Natalie, suffers with Developmental Delays, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, behavioural issues and cognitive delays.

Physically and verbally able to manage, Natalie has difficulty with transitions, new situations and loud noises. She suffers from a lack of confidence and often won’t try something for fear she won’t be able to do it, holding her back from a variety of opportunities and experiences.

“Natalie has attended two series of HOPE sessions at two different stables, over the course of about 14 months,” noted Jan. “To see her bloom under the guidance of her instructor, Mandy, brings tears to our eyes. It has given Natalie a sense of accomplishment and boosted her self-confidence to no end. To know that she can approach these magnificent animals and actually help them, all by herself, was beyond her comprehension before. She feels in control and empowered and loves every minute of it. Her newfound self-confidence is just amazing to see. We can even relate every day issues to her work with the horses.”

In those moments, Jan reminds her daughter of a certain HOPE horse.

“If Natalie gets impatient waiting in line and complains to me about why it’s not our turn yet, I remind her of one particular horse, Jay, who continually kicks the stall door if he sees other horses being fed treats and we are not paying him attention,” said Jan. “We can discuss how it’s not polite for Jay to kick the stall, just as it’s not polite for Natalie to be impatient.”

HOPE has been an eye-opening experience for both mother and daughter.

“Having never been around horses growing up, it was quite an education for me to see the interaction,” offered Jan. “The owners and the staff at the stable are open and warm and are incredibly good role models for the HOPE program attendees. They have taught Natalie to respect the horse’s space, just as you would with people. Natalie is quite fearless around the horses as she’s accepted this rule and knows which angle to approach them and where not to touch them if they don’t like it. When she is brushing the sides of these big horses, she lays her hands and the side of her face on them and just melts into them.

“She loves to hear their heartbeat and truly feels ‘as one’ with the horse,” continued Jan. “She has learned their personality traits and remembers all of their names, which is quite an accomplishment for her. She is learning new things each week and is being challenged. As a mother, this new self-esteem is an amazing thing to see.”

Natalie has also made visits to High Stakes, outside of HOPE, to spend time with the horses and the other animals.

“She’s come back and gone on tours with my daughter, Emma,” said Colville. “That says something about all of this. The volunteers – myself, Emma, Jean Posthuma, Katie Panko and Shirley McLean – have developed relationships with people through HOPE that are truly magical.”

For Andrew, they’re all ideal examples of HOPE’s lasting impact on the people and families connected with the program, one she would love to see expand in the coming years.

“It would be wonderful to have more sessions,” she said. “We have a growing support system and hopefully, HOPE can continue to grow.”

Johnson has the same wish.

“The more people that can experience this, the better,” she said. “It opens up possibilities that I did not think would be there for my daughter and has made a profound difference in her life. She has found a purpose and a confidence around the horses that is heart-warming and is something that she can move forward with in other areas of her life.

“My daughter is involved in all areas of the horse’s care and it has given her such a sense of accomplishment,” continued Jan. “She is proud to tell her family and friends what she has been doing at the stables and can’t wait to get there the next week. She has been invited to attend Mohawk (Racetrack) and get a ‘backstage’ look at what happens at the races, continuing her education on the horses. It has had a therapeutic effect on her behaviour and has boosted her confidence. She feels safe, welcomed and loved each and every time she attends the stables. Every vulnerable person should have that opportunity. We are so thankful that she has had a chance to feel ‘normal’ here.”


Long-Term Lease For OLG, Mohawk

September 23, 2016 – Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) today announced it has reached a long-term lease agreement with the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG) for gaming operations at Mohawk Racetrack in Milton.

“At Woodbine Entertainment Group, our mission is to support the foundation and lead the growth of the Ontario horse racing industry,” said Jim Lawson, CEO of WEG. “This long-term lease agreement signifies a positive step forward for the industry and helps us pave the way for future investments at Mohawk. We look forward to fulfilling our core mandate of achieving the highest quality of horse racing and ensuring that Mohawk is a world class Standardbred racing facility.”

In addition, WEG and OLG were able to reach an agreement which provides for the continuation of WEG’s Hospitality services for the Mohawk gaming operations.

“This lease and the food and beverage agreement are great news for our employees and local horsemen and provides them with some much needed certainty,” Mr. Lawson added.

The completion of the lease agreement will provide reassurance to the province’s Standardbred racing and breeding industry and allow Mohawk to thrive as the hub of the sport in Ontario.

“This announcement provides security for horse people and horse breeders, and confirms government is committed to working with the industry,” said Rob Cook, Executive Director for Ontario Racing. “Ontario Racing welcomes the Woodbine Entertainment Group’s continued dedication to leveraging their expertise for the growth of our sport.”

The Mohawk Racetrack site has been host to horse racing since 1963 and gaming operations since 1999. It’s the home of the Pepsi North America Cup, one of the continent’s leading Standardbred races, and will host the Milton Stakes on Saturday evening.

(with files from WEG)

(Standardbred Canada)

Woodbine Unveils Expansion Plans

February 16, 2016 – On Tuesday, February 16, the Woodbine Entertainment Group and Trinity Development Group Inc. announced that the companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purpose of developing an integrated entertainment venue at Woodbine Racetrack.

The WEG-Trinity proposal calls for an entertainment venue of approximately 165,000 square feet and seating for up to 5,000 patrons. It would reside adjacent to the current Woodbine Racetrack facility and occupy three to four acres of the Woodbine property. The collaboration is the next step in WEG’s property development vision of an integrated district with multiple forms of gaming, entertainment and horse racing.

“This is an exciting day for Woodbine Entertainment Group and the city of Toronto,” said Jim Lawson, CEO of WEG. “To partner with a trusted, well-respected property development company like Trinity allows the citizens of Toronto, and frankly the entire province, to start to see the possibilities of what we can develop on one of the most attractive pieces of real estate in the GTA.”

Together WEG and Trinity will conduct a procurement process to bring in a world-class third party entertainment company to be the manager and operator of the venue. The venue is expected to be used for live performances (i.e. music, theatre, dance) and other forms of live entertainment.

“Trinity Development Group is looking forward to working with an iconic brand like Woodbine Entertainment Group to develop a portion of the 680 acres of prime land on the Woodbine Racetrack property,” said John Ruddy, executive chairman of Trinity. “Trinity has a deep history in developing real estate of this quality in high profile locations.”

Trinity is responsible for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. After a revitalization project that opened in November of 2014, Lansdowne is a hotbed for businesses and restaurants that drew 1.5 million visitors in its first year of operations.

(WEG – images courtesy BBB Architects)


Hi-5 Helps Christmas Come Early For Lucky Horseplayer

December 18, 2015 – It was like dreaming…I wasn’t sure if it was true or not.”

Every horseplayer dreams of hitting The Big One. Horseplayers study daily looking for value and hoping to put together the perfect ticket in search of that big payday.

The possibility of striking it big can seem expensive and out of reach, but a longtime Toronto horseplayer recently proved sometimes all it takes is less than $5 and a lot of luck.

A Toronto horseplayer, who asked to remain anonymous, crafted together the only winning ticket on last Friday’s Jackpot Hi-5 at Woodbine Racetrack to take home the entire $242,409.44 pool. His ticket cost just $4.80.

The Jackpot Hi-5 pool had been growing since October 26, as multiple winning tickets on each card caused the pool to carryover. The only way for a horseplayer to take home the entire pool is to have the only ticket with the correct combination.

The chances of having the only winning ticket have proved to be relatively low when the favourite finishes in the top five, but Friday evening the public’s choice finished out of the money and longshots took over.

“I knew if I wanted to get the Hi-5, I would never get it by studying the program,” said the Toronto horseplayer. “I know if all the favourites come in, I can’t get the Jackpot.”

To try and win the Jackpot, the horseplayer, who relayed he is around the age of 65, went to his lucky combination costing just $4.80.

“I just put 9 on top and then 1,5 for second, 1,5 for third, 3,8 for fourth and all (for fifth).”

The $4.80 combination came through, as Shez A Gold Mine (PP9) won the race at 17-1 followed by Kassaras Song (PP1) at 25-1, Weekly Special (PP5) at 50-1, Black Widow Baby (PP8) at 2-1 and Boozer Bruiser (PP6) at 6-1.

The veteran horseplayer watched the race live at a Toronto Champions Off-Track Betting location and said he knew immediately he had won the Jackpot.

The Jackpot winner continuously plays the same numbers for his $4.80 Jackpot Hi-5 ticket at various tracks, but has kept his focus on Woodbine after missing out on a prior Jackpot.

“One day I bet another track with these same numbers. At exactly the same time that Woodbine was on the last race with the Hi-5,” explained the Toronto horseplayer. “(Woodbine) comes out with the same numbers as I bet, but I didn’t bet the Woodbine Hi-5. At that time Woodbine had about a $70,000 Hi-5 Jackpot, so if I had bet the same numbers I would have got the Jackpot for $70,000.”

As fate would have it, his numbers came through again to give him a winning ticket horseplayers play an entire lifetime for.

The longtime horseplayer and has been a member of HPIbet since Day One. Although he regularly plays Jackpot wagers, hitting one never seemed like a possibility until Friday.

“I never dreamed it would come true, except when it came true,” he laughed, noting his biggest winning ticket before Friday was $5,000. “I’m going to keep on playing for fun, same as previously.”

The Jackpot winner hasn’t decided what he will do with his winnings, but mentioned he will be sharing it with his family.

The Jackpot Hi-5 has now started from scratch, but you can bet the Jackpot winner will be playing his numbers hoping lightning strikes again.

(with files from WEG)
(Standardbred Canada)

Hi 5 Carryover Climbs Over $200K

December 8, 2015 – Despite a 37-1 winner clicking in Monday evening’s finale at Woodbine Racetrack, multiple winning tickets were sold thus forcing another Jackpot Hi 5 carryover at the Rexdale oval.

Steve Byron guided Andreios Kardia to a come-from-behind tally in the $12,000 conditioned affair, and that was a dream come true for longshot players. The gelding drew clear to win by three lengths in a career-best clocking of 1:51.3.

The winning combination of 7-5-6-4-8 kicked back $3,659.36 for each $.20-based wager. Because there were multiple winning tickets, the overall carryover going into Thursday evening’s card of racing swelled to $202,641.64.

To view results for Monday’s card of harness racing, click the following link: Monday Results – Woodbine Racetrack.

(Standardbred Canada)

Hi 5 Carryover Climbs To $158K

December 4, 2015 – Fans on the lookout for the place to find some last minute, holiday season spending money need look no further than Woodbine Racetrack on Friday evening.

The Rexdale oval will feature an 11-race program, and if you’re willing to wait around for the final dash you’ll have a chance to hit a windfall that would certainly stuff some stockings.

The carryover for Friday’s Jackpot Hi 5 wager in Race 11 will be $158,652.66 after multiple winning tickets were sold on Thursday’s wager. Fans that successfully came up with the winning combination of 5-6-1-8-9 on Thursday evening took home a solid return of $10,313.55.

To get a head start on handicapping Friday’s card of racing, click here to download a free program.

To view results for Thursday’s card of harness racing, click the following link: Thursday Results – Woodbine Racetrack.

(Standardbred Canada)

Mohawk-Woodbine Qualifying Schedule

November 25, 2015 – Officials in the race office at Mohawk Racetrack would like to inform horsepeople of the qualifying schedule for the remainder of 2015 and into the New Year.

Qualifying sessions will continue to be held at Mohawk through December. Beginning in the New Year, qualifiers will move over to Woodbine Racetrack and will take place before live racing.

The Mohawk qualifying schedule appears below.

• Thursday, November 26
• Thursday, December 3
• Thursday, December 10
• Thursday, December 17
• Monday, December 21

All qualifying sessions at Mohawk will begin at 10 a.m.

The Woodbine qualifying schedule appears below.

• Monday, January 4
• Thursday, January 7
• Thursday, January 14
• Thursday, January 21
• Thursday, January 28

All qualifying sessions at Woodbine will begin at 4 p.m.

The entry box for Thursday qualifiers will close on Wednesday mornings at 10:30 a.m.

(Standardbred Canada)

Last Call: Woodbine Series Nominations

November 24, 2015 – Officials in the Mohawk Racetrack race office would like to remind horsepeople that nominations to the Woodbine Winter Series close on Tuesday, December 1.

A total of 12 events will be offered over the months of December, January, February and March. The series finals will feature nearly $500,000 in added money over the course of the winter.

The Niagara for three-year-old pacing fillies and the Valedictory for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings will kick off Winter Series action in December. Both series will wrap up with their finals on the special afternoon Boxing Day card.

New in 2016, the HPIbet.com and WEGZ series are now four-year-old pacing events.

The HPIbet.com will be offered for four-year-old pacing mares, who are non-winners of $100,000 lifetime as of October 31, 2015. The WEGZ series carries the same conditions and is for four-year-old pacing horses and geldings.

Other Winter Series events include the Blizzard, Snowshoe, Miss Vera Bars, The Count B, Ontario Girls, Ontario Boys, Lifetime Dream and General Brock.

To view the nomination form and details for all 12 events, click here.

Each series carries a nomination fee of $200 and will feature two preliminary legs and added money final.

To pay the $200 nomination fee online, click here.

If sending nominations by mail, envelopes must be clearly post-marked no later than December 1, 2015 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)
(Standardbred Canada)

Woodbine Post Time Change Reminder

November 5, 2015 – The Woodbine Entertainment Group would like to remind all horsepeople and horseplayers of the upcoming post time change for live Standardbred racing at Woodbine Racetrack.

Beginning this coming Monday (November 9), first-race post time for each night of live racing at Woodbine will be 7:30 p.m.

Horsepeople are reminded to double check lasix and paddock times.

The 7:30 p.m. start time will be used for each card of live racing during Woodbine’s fall-winter meet, except for the special Boxing Day matinee card (on Saturday, December 26). First-race post time for the December 26 card will be 1 p.m.