What Does the Future Hold for the Ontario Horse Racing Industry?

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With the current pandemic taking its toll on Ontario horse racing over the last five months, the province has authorised a Standardbred Improvement Programme to assist.

In an attempt to cushion the domino effect caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association has launched a comprehensive programme to assist the breeders in the province during these challenging times.  Walter Parkinson, the president of the association, recently unveiled the action points of this innovative programme and the way these correlate with the changing dynamics of the current situation. 

Ever since the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation suspended live racing in March, the industry has been facing a crisis.  The pandemic affected both the thoroughbred and the standardbred racing competitions.  The predicament has been further coupled by the fact that even with no racing income streaming in, daily obligations like horse grooming, training and maintenance needed to be performed.

Standardbred Improvement Programme

July and August saw a gradual relaunch of live horseracing, albeit with strict spectator limitations.  This has reactivated the earning cycle within the industry in preparation for the autumn months which are traditionally reserved for the purchase of yearlings and breeding of standardbred steeds.

Parkinson noted that all individuals interested in entering the industry segment can now do so via the improvement programme.  Some of the more attractive features of the programme include the Ontario Sires Stake grant that provides for CA$15 million purses.  Furthermore, there is also a Quarter Horse Racing Industry Development Programme, as well as a Thoroughbred Improvement Programme.

Purses Projections

The three specialised programmes aim to broadly cover the industry segment and provide each horse breed with the necessary support.  Ultimately, purses are of utmost importance to horse breeders as they make their work sustainable.  The gold purse usually exceeds CA$100,000 for each race, with the grassroots division banking approximately CA$23,000.

Ontario has been long viewed as a province that is favourably inclined towards horse breeders due to its established long-term funding agreements, that have especially come in useful during these testing times.

In an attempt to assist the industry players, Ontario Racing passed an amendment to its current Funding Agreement for Live Horseracing that it had entered into with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.  The amendment has allowed thoroughbred, standardbred and quarter horse owners to be eligible for support for the duration of the ban on live horseracing events.

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