it’s the most exciting week for Horse Racing around the World, the Breeders’ Cup races are Friday and Saturday. In Ontario, however, the industry teeters and the release of another set of recommendations by a panel to the government on how the industry can survive leaves us still with questions.

DECEMBER 1 is the deadline for track negotiations.

There is a press conference this morning at FORT ERIE…




Seems to be mixed signals coming from various groups in horse racing in Ontario to the OMAFRA report that was released again yesterday with some suggestions as to how it can continue sans slot revenue in 2013.

The THOROUGHBRED A RECOMMENDATIONS (Woodbine)  would suffer the least hit with a 14% purse decrease according to the recommendation.

you can read the report here:


DENNIS MILLS, who has spearheaded and incredibly tough push to help the industry hold its ground with the government issued an update yesterday:

Dennis Mills, Racing Future Inc. stated today in response on the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel “We understand that the next 30 days will be the most important month in the history of Ontario horse racing. It will be during this time period that the Panel will negotiate new contracts with the racetracks. We hope that the Panel has been given sufficient financial quantum and latitude to negotiate in good faith for without that and support of the racetracks the sport may not survive”.

Racing Future recognize that the responsibility of the Panel was a huge one given the stark realities posed by the sudden termination of the Slots at Racetracks Program: the potential loss of 55,000 full and part-time jobs, the issue of equine welfare, and, fundamentally, the devastation that would occur in rural Ontario. From the outset the task of the Panel was challenging and Racing Future applaud their tenacity, openness, and intelligence in determining policy that will assist an industry that has contributed over $14 billion to the Treasury of Ontario since 1998 and is one of Ontario’s most important heritage assets.

Although everyone involved in this issue could easily spend time now finger pointing, we at Racing Future believe that we must attempt to focus all of our attention on the deadline of December 1st, 2012 for all Racetrack negotiations to be completed. It is from this point of view that we celebrate several of the Panel’s statements not least of which is that “Ontario’s horse racing industry is worth saving. It generates jobs, economic spinoffs and tax revenues. It is a valuable social and cultural asset, with deep roots in Ontario’s heritage, and maintains strong links between rural and urban communities.” (p 23)

Racing Future has always advocated that the Slots at Racetracks Program was a revenue-sharing partnership and we are pleased to note that the Panel concurs through their statement on page 11: “in the interests of sound public policy OLG should not subsidize racetracks but, equally, racetracks should not subsidize OLG.”

As with most sectors of the provincial economy such as the automotive industry, environment, cultural sectors, etc, varying degrees of government support are imperative to survival. Specific to horse racing, the Panel notes that they “could not find a single example of a viable horse racing industry without some form of public support (p.1). Having said this, the Panel goes on to state that the current agreement with Slots at Racetracks Program will conclude on the date originally set forth, March 31st, 2013, but by December 1st, 2012 a new agreement will be in place. Moreover, the Panel has stated quite emphatically that the horse racing industry will be supported at least in its transition phase, which has been set at 3 years. The Panel has not stated the quantum of financial support but they have stated, on page 17 of their report, that the Government needs to “allocate funding over the next three years to support implementation of the Sustainable Horse Racing Model.”

The following are some additional recommendations of the Panel that Racing Future endorses and supports:

On page 18, the implementation of the Sustainable Horse Racing Model, which sets aside $10 million for marketing, understanding consumer behaviour and enhancing the horse player exercise.

Racing Future also support the recommendations to the government outlined on page 19:

Explore a new horse racing specific lottery
Deliver sports book in Ontario through the horse racing industry network.
Allow Ontario racetracks to offer historical racing products
Use the new net revenues (with projected total of $100 million per year) to offset future public funding of live racing, grow the racing industry, and enhance government revenues

Historical racing products — also known as Instant Racing Machines — will only work where there are no slot machines. Where there are slot machines and Instant Racing Machines in the same location, consumers invariably choose slots. It is important to keep this in mind when considering placement of Instant Racing Machines, which work very well in various locations such as Off Track Betting venues.

As with the pari-mutuel formula we hope that the proposed Racing Secretariat will split the “new revenues” (as outlined above) 50/50 between purses and the racetracks.

Additionally, the Panel has been very explicit on equine welfare and Racing Future support their recommendations to the government on page 21:

Eliminate public funding of equine performance/breeding research and replace it with public investment through OMAFRA in overall equine health as required.
Require breeders and owners to develop robust racehorse lifecycle plans.
Provide funding for foundational lifecycle planning development work through Equine Guelph.
Develop a therapeutic drug policy designed to enhance the second career options for racehorses.

Racing Future are concerned about the Panel’s conclusions regarding promoting Ontario breeding excellence on page 12:

Review both the Horse Improvement Program (HIP) and the pari-mutuel tax reduction memorandum of understanding to ensure funds make the maximum impact on the quality of Ontario horses and generate the maximum economic benefit.
Cap the flow of pari-mutuel tax reduction funds into breeding program — including HIP and the Ontario Sires Stakes — at $30 million per year.

Racing Future have additional concerns around the purse structure and race days, to be specific…

the future of Fort Erie racetrack;
the dramatic reduction in the number of the race dates for Standardbreds; and,
how the Racing Secretaries can design a racing structure that requires every race to have a field size of ten horses in order to be eligible for purse funds under the new program.

Regarding Fort Erie, we urge the Racing Secretariat to re-consider the number of race dates immediately. Fort Erie must have a minimum 90-day meet, which is the minimum number of race dates required to achieve critical mass. This issue must be addressed by December 1st 2012.

Racing Future are also left asking ourselves many questions: What was the formula or rationale used to reduce the number of Standardbred races by almost 60%? What is the explanation for reducing racing at Fort Erie by 54% while reducing racing at Ajax Downs by only 3%. What is the criteria required for a racetrack to be a member of the proposed alliance? In light of such questions, there needs to be more specificity on how such issues were decided upon.

Racing Future also understand that the Racing Secretariat will have the ability to amend some of their recommendations as they encounter complexities going forward such as the requirement of 10-horse minimum field size. More research will no doubt show that this is not an achievable or sustainable parameter given the unpredictability of the sport.
Having noted these concerns, we are hopeful that the new Racing Secretariat will include the current Panel members and will have Cabinet Authority to make sure these concerns pass the fairness test.

Finally, Racing Future support the Panel’s over-arching principals that further investment of public dollars in the industry should be based on clear public-interest principles, namely:

Renewed focus on the consumer and
Return of each public dollar invested to government through tax revenues

We believe John Snobelen, Elmer Buchanan and John Wilkinson as well as the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon Ted McMeekin, have worked tirelessly to produce this final report. From the sudden and potentially devastating news of last March, the efforts of the Panel, and of Mr McMeekin who has remained steadfast and determined to consider often divergent viewpoints, should at this point be recognized by everyone involved in horse racing.



After an extremely successful 2012 racing season, Mother Nature dictated the way in which the 115th meeting at Fort Erie Race Track would come to an end.  Thanks to heavy rain, high winds and the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, racing concluded on Monday, October 29th, just one day shy of the scheduled closing date of October 30th.
“The inconsistently of the sloppy racetrack took its toll on the dirt racing surface.  The safety of our jockeys and the horses is our number one priority,” said Rick Cowan, Chief Operating Officer for the FELRC.
On the track it was jockey Terry Husbands who lead the way concluding the season with 86 wins.  Since the beginning of the meet, the 24 year old rider had been in a battle with Kirk Johnson for the top spot in the standings.  Overall, Husbands mounts earned a total of $931,332.  His stats were impressive with a 20% win average and 55% of his mounts finishing in the top three.  Johnson finished second with 73 wins and longtime veteran Martin Ramirez rounded out the top three with 60 victories.

The race for leading trainer came down to the photo finish between three conditioners.  Last year’s leading trainer, Ross Armata, Ken Albu and Julie Robillard who received her trainer’s license five years ago.  In the end, the result was a dead heat between Armata and Robillard who each saddled 24 winners.

“I am ecstatic with how the year shaped up.  I started off the season with only a small amount of horses and finished with a strong outfit,” said the 32 year old Robillard.  To add to the celebration for the young trainer, Robillard will go down in the history books as the first female trainer to capture the title.  Julie is moving her 13 horse string to Mountaineer Park in West Virginia for the fall and winter months.

Leading the way in the owner’s category was Six Brothers Stable, whose stock is trained by Robillard, C.R. Johnson and Marilyn Johnson.  Their runners enjoyed a stellar season with 25 wins, 6 seconds and 15 thirds and earnings of $189,984.

Although the cancelation of closing day was a disappointment for racing fans and horsepeople, the 2012 racing season was one of the best ever.  From events such as the Outdoor Show, the Tiki Bar concert series, Twilight racing and the 115th Anniversary celebration the meet was full of fun events for people of all ages.  In all, over 60 events took place at the historic border oval from 79 racing days.
“I am extremely proud of our staff’s efforts which contributed to the success of a very aggressive promotional schedule with limited financial resources,” said Rick Cowan.


MAYOR ROB FORD – Casino downtown, yes, expanded Woodbine casino, yes



POOL PLAY – While famed Windfields Farm lies dormant in Oshawa, walls crumbling and houses being built around it, POOL PLAY, who was born at the farm, carries the legendary farm with him in the Classic. Cindy Pierson Dulay photo





BREEDERS’ CUP – on the scene!

Thanks to Cindy and Terence Dulay for continued photos and coverage of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
The 15 races kick off Friday and THOROUGHBLOG will have thoughts and notes as we go along.
While somewhat diluted, the Breeders’ Cup remains special for all horse racing folks and heck, in Ontario, we need stuff to cheer for right now.
Not everyone is convinced about the Cup of today however:


By Lance Pugmire

The Breeders’ Cup comes to Santa Anita this week without a superstar like Zenyatta, and it’s also missing the injured Triple Crown race winners from this year, I’ll Have Another and Union Rags.

So why watch?

“Because the best horses in the world are running over a two-day period and because there’ll be some good racin’,” said veteran trainer Tom Proctor, who nears his 5,000th start by sending 9-2 shot Marketing Mix, with jockey Garrett Gomez, to the $2-million Filly and Mare Turf on Friday.

The lack of star power hits in the sixth year since the Breeders’ Cup converted what was an eight-race, one-day event to a two-day festival that now stands at 15 races, including the Marathon and five juvenile races.,0,6620160.story


Does Frank Stronach and family own one of the greatest mares of the last decade? AWESOME FEATHER has never lost folks…delicate but forceful, she is a star.

Terence Dulay.





John Gaines had the right idea when he proposed a set of

races that would also allow horses from outside of North America to
participate. The conclusion was one day of elite races. But somewheres
along the line it was expanded into 2 days. Nothing new to the times: we
now have the Hockey Stanley Cup finals in June.

Back to this unplayable set of races, but what a spectacle!
A few years ago. Mark Cramer commented that it is a chaotic
set of races. To confirm his comments, he pointed out that in the first
20 years of the Cup. anyone who bet every horse in this period
would have shown a profit.

How difficult is it? I recall the year that Volponi won at
about $85 for a $2 wager. I looked at the Form and noted
that out of the 42 selectors, only one had picked the winner.
The winning selector was an Eastern DRF columnist and
her father was P.G. Johnson -Volponi’s owner and trainer.
Volponi had 6 2nd finishes  prior to the Cup and
he won by 6-1/2 lengths. A record finish in all  the previous Classics.
What handicapping methodology do you apply?

The problem stems from the fact that these are top notch horses.
Anyone can win. The absurdity is that some traditionalist
assigns a Morning Line on all the entries. They should all be equal odds,
if we consider them all to be top notch horses..Bettors do place a lot
of emphasis on the ML.

How can anyone justify a Morning Line from 5/2 to 30/1 if the horses are
all equal?  A 12 horse field should should be at 11/1 for all of them.
Take the number of horses in a race , less 1, and eliminate them all.

Example: a 10 horse field, 10 minus 1 equals 9.  Eliminate all those with
a ML of UNDER  9/1.   Just forget that traditional handicapping does not work.

It is simple and you  can do the 9 races in a few minutes.  Then just sit back and
enjoy the spectacular set of races as envisioned by John Gaines.

Alex S.



Classic horse Handsome Mike galloped 1 1/4 miles under exercise rider Jonny Garcia with stablemate Boxeur des Rues. Trainer Doug O’Neill said, “The Pennsylvania Derby really seemed to have jarred the wake-up switch on him,” said O’Neill. “This is the time of the year when the 3-year-olds have kind of caught up with the older horses. He should be forwardly placed. He’s a free-running horse you can’t take hold of.” Sprint contender Boxeur des Rues galloped 1 1/4m at Santa Anita Tuesday with exercise rider Norberto Vasquez. Trainer Doug O’Neill said “Post 14 is OK. He’s the last to load and he’ll just make one big run. If they go crazy up front, he’ll be picking them up late at a big price.”



“The undisputed Queen of racing on this continent”  – Tom Durkin.
Need I say more about this fond memory?