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Read Grant Watson’s assessment of the current state of racing in Canada.

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Another year has come and gone, another report update to be given. So let’s begin: 2016 was certainly a year for changes, for the breeders, the tracks and for programs. But first, a numbers update.

Although we saw a rapid decline of memberships — from 1,289 in 2013 to 1,059 in 2015 — we may be coming to a plateau. The membership total for 2016 was 1,037, and with approximately 800 members renewed in the first two months of 2017, and memberships continuing to be received in the National Office, we can hope that we will reach just over the 1,000-member threshold in 2017 as in the previous two years.

We have seen the decline in the number of registered Canadian thoroughbreds over the last 10 to 15 years halved (2,635 in 2013 to 1,265 in 2015), but we are not the only ones who have seen this decline. The registered foal crop in the United States and North America as a whole has been halved as well (44,143 in 1990 to 22,500 est. in 2016). The small silver lining? For the last couple of years, the foal crop numbers have remained relatively consistent in North America (United States, Canada and Puerto Rico) 2014, 2015 and 2016 estimated, with 22,300, 22,500 and 22,500, respectively. Perhaps as breeders we will be able to take comfort in the steadiness over the last couple of years, the new programs (both breeding and racing) that are being offered and the attention at the world stage with the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup in January of this year. *Statistics may be found at The Jockey Club 2016 Fact Book.

In the face of these declines, we have seen the various industry groups come together, open up and create dialogue and work together to address issues we all face, rather than attempting to assist the industry individually as we have seen in the past. It is evident of the times and the struggles the industry is going through for this to happen. I applaud all those who have put their differences aside and worked towards common goals, but why did we have to wait so long?

As changes are being felt by the industry, we must all try and adapt to the changes and put our best foot forward and try to remember to smile. Among the many changes that are being felt as breeders, the recent change in the Principal Rules and Requirements of the North American Stud Book, requiring that all registered thoroughbreds beginning with the 2017 foal crop be microchipped, seems to be the biggest.

Microchipping has become an issue of contention among breeders across the country, with the new alternative microchip implantation location being offered. The location of the microchip may be either in the nuchal ligament (left side of the neck at crest) or the “nasal area”, both locations will be accepted by the Jockey Club and the CTHS, but the location must be noted when registering. The “nasal area” or nose area is being misunderstood, I believe. The implant location occurs on the upper midline frenulum with the microchip ending up in the rostral interincisive canal, in short, the fleshy area of the upper lip where the tattoo would be found. The CTHS is recommending the “nasal area” for a variety of beneficial reasons. The CTHS respects the decision of the breeders and owners on whichever microchip implant location is chosen. We ask that industry stakeholders keep an open mind to the new location and remember to scan both the neck and nose for microchips going forward. If you wish to know more about the “nasal area” implant location, please visit the CTHS National Website.

In general, I believe we can agree that field size and horse population fears still exist, but with the proof of stable numbers in the registered foal crops, perhaps we can look to generate viable solutions to address the current numbers. Surprisingly enough, the racing clubs at tracks are becoming more popular, perhaps this movement will bring the much-needed fresh interest to our industry and in turn new owners, breeders and buyers; time will tell. The restricted races, reciprocal agreements, race series and various programs implemented in the last couple of years are finally seeing results for their efforts.

Ontario continues to deal with change and work on issues they face, and for their efforts, are slowly moving forward. The new Mare Purchase Program that was introduced in time for the winter sales has seen positive feedback from the breeders. Manitoba and Saskatchewan continue to move along, continuously working on improving all aspects of their game in an effort to continue to be viable. Alberta, to the relief of many, has seen an agreement reached to continue to race at Northlands Park for the majority of the 2017 season before heading to Century Downs for the rest of the season. This will be the first time we will see the thoroughbreds at Century Downs since the track offered live racing. British Columbia, through continued efforts, offers many programs to the horsemen and breeders to improve the thoroughbred landscape.

It is through the efforts of all industry stakeholders that our industry will continue to move forward, whether it is from behind the scenes, or an active visible effort. A big applause and thank-you to all those who stepped up and continue to address the challenges that we face; your time, effort and love of the thoroughbred are appreciated.

A new surveillance system has been created in 2016 with the goal(s) of sharing the reporting of animal health alerts in a more timely and accessible fashion. The Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System (CAHSS) is a collaborative national surveillance initiative for all species; it is sponsored by the federal government and the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council. The Equine Network of CAHSS is represented with leaders from all parts of the equine industry across Canada.

On an international stage, the CTHS once again represented Canada at the International Thoroughbred Breeder’s Federation (ITBF) congress that took place in Cape Town, South Africa in January 2017. Some of the main take-away points: It was recognized that the thoroughbred industry has created many of the national and international monitoring and reporting systems and are largely funded by the industry itself, receiving little assistance from the government; Disease reporting needs to continue to encourage active reporting from the entire equine industry; The lack of availability of certain vaccines globally needs to be addressed; Microchipping and the support for the development of a new vaccine for African Horse Sickness were among other topics discussed.

I want to thank all the office staff across Canada with special thanks to Caitlin and Candace.

Grant Watson
President
National CTHS