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Dave Briggs, writing for "Harness Racing Weekend Preview," and Kimberly French, writing for "Hoof Beats" magazine, were named the winners in the 2015 John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness writing journalism, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Monday. Winners in the Smallsreed Award photography contest and Hervey broadcasting division were announced last week. French won in the feature writing category for her story titled "Heart of a Lion: Champion trotter King Mufasa walks away from gruesome trailering accident," which appeared in the November 2015 issue of "Hoof Beats." It is French's first Hervey honor. Bill Finley and Melissa Keith received honorable mention in the feature category. Finley was recognized for his story about Breana Carsey and her Ohio Sire Stakes champion MJB Got Faith "Just 10, Owner has big horse, big dreams, big heart," which appeared in the Sept. 17, 2015 issue of "Harness Racing Update." Keith was recognized for her story "Been there, bought the T-shirt: The relevance of trademark race calls," which appeared in the February 2015 issue of "Trot" magazine. Briggs won in the news and commentary category for his "Stretch Call" column titled "Suspension of Sears points to systemic flaw," which appeared on Nov. 20, 2015 in "Harness Racing Weekend Preview." Briggs has been awarded a record eight Hervey honors in the writing categories. Kathy Parker and Perry Lefko received honorable mention in the news and commentary category. Parker was recognized for her story, "Battle to the Wire: Wiggle It Jiggleit astounds crowd with victory in 70th Little Brown Jug," which appeared in the Sept. 30, 2015 issue of "The Horseman and Fair World" magazine. Lefko was recognized for his story, "Four Michigan drivers seeking huge sums in damage suit after race fixing case went nowhere," which appeared in the Sept. 11, 2015 issue of "Harness Racing Update." The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of past Hervey winners Brad Schmaltz and Maryjean Wall, horse racing publicist and writer Lynne Snierson, and Daily Racing Form Programming Manager Lou Monaco. Award winners will be recognized during the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet at Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on March 6. Information on tickets and accommodations for the event can be found at Meadowlands Chairman Jeffrey Gural is continuing his longstanding sponsorship of the Hervey and Smallsreed awards by providing banquet tickets for the Hervey and Smallsreed winners. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association

As the 2015 live season comes to a close at the Toronto plant, new CEO Jim Lawson gives his take on the year that was and what the future may hold for Canada's largest racetrack. In May, a little over a month after becoming the chief executive officer of Toronto's Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), Jim Lawson was busy setting up a satellite office in the stable area and professing a love for the backside of a racetrack first stoked as a boy on visits to the Woodbine barns with his father. "There's nothing better that being around a racetrack in the morning and seeing everyone," he said at the time. "They love their job. They just love being around the horses, but they love being part of the community. That's what means a lot to me." Six months later, a few days before Woodbine will bring an end to both the 2015 racing season and its 9-year-old Polytrack surface, Lawson laughed when asked if being in the backstretch regularly was still good for his soul. "It’s definitely challenging," he said carefully. "It's an interesting business in that the complaints far outweigh the praise … but that's okay. I understand that and that's why we're back there. If we can make this a better place as a result of that, that's what it's all about." In a nearly hour-long interview just before yesterday's season-ending card at Woodbine, Lawson spoke candidly and passionately about the state of horse racing at Canada's largest racetrack less than two years after the province pulled the plug on the lucrative Slots at Racetracks Program. Lawson, who is also the chair of the Canadian Football League and was the league’s interim commissioner when he took the job at WEG, is the son of the late Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer Mel Lawson, who established the Jim Dandy Stable in the 1960s. Being more accessible to the horsepeople is one part of Lawson’s efforts to institute a significant culture change at WEG, one of seven positive indicators — including a 14 percent increase in wagering — that Woodbine may have a bright future. 1. Culture Change "We’re working at a transformation that's consistent with getting more people interested in the game," Lawson said of the culture change he began leading shortly after April 1, when he took over for outgoing CEO Nick Eaves. "What we're faced with in this industry is just a challenging landscape in terms of the competition for that sports and entertainment dollar. I think what we need to do is become better as an organization in terms of attracting people and showing people what horse racing can do, how people can come out and enjoy themselves. That starts with having a happy workplace. People who are excited about what they do, they pass on that excitement to the customer." Lawson said increasing employee investment in the operation requires removing some of the hierarchy in an organization that has nearly 2,000 employees and operates both Woodbine Racetrack just down the road from Toronto’s Pearson Airport and its Standardbred-only sister track, Mohawk Racetrack, 30 miles west of the city in Campbellville. "Part of our cultural change is challenging people for that new vision to give them the empowerment to do things differently," Lawson said. “I think that’s the way horse racing is going to survive in this province - by being new and innovative - and that's part of our cultural vision and our vision, generally, as a company." 2. Turf is King One example of different thinking involves experimenting with racing the opposite direction — clockwise — to better utilize Woodbine’s celebrated, European-style turf course, named for the track’s founder, E.P. Taylor, the man who brought the world the incomparable Northern Dancer. "Why not run clockwise? What’s wrong with that? We never thought of it before. Let’s try something different. Let's build some innovation and excitement back in this game," Lawson said. "The idea really relates to the fact that we've got this world class turf course and a good part of it doesn't get used unless we’re running a mile-and-a-quarter or a mile-and-a-half on the grass. "We’ve been looking at ways to add chutes to our turf course and different approaches. We are likely going to experiment in the spring with running horses clockwise. We've already worked horses clockwise successfully. It doesn’t seem to impact the horses at all. I appreciate from a handicapping angle that some horses may turn right better than they turn left, but that’s a handicapping angle. I don’t think, from the experts we talked to, the horses notice the difference. "I can see us running 25 races or more next year clockwise." Lawson said one of Woodbine’s biggest selling points is its turf course. The plant could even add a second turf course in the future. Currently, Standardbreds race at Woodbine in the winter on a dirt track that was a Thoroughbred turf oval prior to harness racing coming to the facility in 1994. WEG is exploring the possibility of Standardbreds racing at Mohawk year-round, which would allow the company to put in a new turf track where the harness racing oval is now. A lot of that is dependent on casino expansion at both facilities, but more on that in a second. For the time being, WEG is concentrating on replacing its Polytrack surface. 3. Ditching the Poly for Tapeta Shortly after racing ends on Nov. 29, construction crews will begin tearing out Woodbine’s Polytrack surface in favour of a new synthetic cushion — Tapeta. Weather permitting, the hope is to have the new track installed in December so it can settle over the winter. Lawson predicts there will be business advantages to Tapeta being installed." It's a very consistent surface, so people coming up here or shipping up here to run know what they’re going to run on," Lawson said. "Our numbers show us that our biggest selling point is our turf course. We're looking at ways of increasing our turf racing. Horses that ship in to run on our turf, they at least have the luxury of knowing that if there's a rainstorm… and the race comes off the turf, they will run on a Tapeta surface. That way they're not faced with scratching the horse on a sloppy or muddy track. "We will average a fewer scratches when a race moves from a grass surface to a Tapeta surface." Lawson said field size is critical to WEG’s bottom line. "There's such a direct correlation between field size and wagering," he said. "Across North America, every racetrack is struggling with horse supply and field size. Part of the challenge here is to try and increase wagering faced with not only the competition for the entertainment and wagering dollar, but also in our own world, even if we have the wagers there, they're just not going to wager the same amount of money when field sizes are down." 4. Business numbers are up Despite struggling, at times, to card full fields, Lawson was proud to announce betting at Woodbine was up almost 14 per cent in 2015 over 2014. "That's a substantial increase in a period where it’s been difficult with all the competition for the wagering dollar. We’re pleased," Lawson said, indicating the numbers are slightly inflated because the Canadian dollar is currently trading around 75 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. "But it's also indicative, I think, of our product being very well received in the United States, in particular, and the Woodbine brand being recognized," Lawson said. "I think a credit to our marketing people, who work very hard on those U.S. relationships." Woodbine smashed betting records on its three biggest event days this year — the 156th running of the Queen’s Plate on July 5, the Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Sept. 13 and the Pattison Canadian International on Oct. 18. The Queen's Plate card produced an all-time record Woodbine handle of $11.06 million (excluding the 1996 Breeders’ Cup held at the track). The previous, non-Cup Woodbine record was the $9.7 million wagered in 2013. Lawson said he is "boldly predicting" that at next year’s Queen’s Plate, Woodbine will exceed both the $11 million in wagering and this year's Plate crowd of 36,000. That's the good news. However, betting at Woodbine on the Breeder' Cup at Keeneland was not without its challenges. Higher commissions imposed by the Breeders’ Cup forced Woodbine to increase its takeout rates for the day, which, despite being well-publicized, rankled some of Woodbine's customers. "We were faced with some tough decisions. Do we not carry the Breeders’ Cup, which our customers would not have appreciated? Do we go ahead and take a loss? To me there’s something terribly wrong about operating a business of this size and having a Breeders' Cup weekend where we’re going into it knowing we’re going to take a loss on the wagers, or, thirdly, do we try and increase, at least for the day, our pari-mutuel commission takeout? That is the route we took and had to take in order to avoid a loss on those pools." 5. Double the number of Off-Track Betting facilities Thanks to changes in the post-slots era, Woodbine has also nearly doubled the number of Off-Track Betting (OTB) locations it manages in Ontario from 27 in 2013 to 53 today. A five-year, $500 million funding package from provincial government that began April 1, 2014, gave WEG authority over all of the province’s teletheatre locations. WEG now pools the OTB revenue and returns a percentage of it to Ontario's smaller tracks. "We've been working hard at it. The truth is, it’s such a difficult, competitive and, I don’t mind saying, low-margin environment. We need to work very hard to make any gains, particularly any net gains," Lawson said. 6. Casino expansion Woodbine is already home to one of Canada’s most successful slot machine operations, with 3,000 machines on its gaming floor. Though the track no longer gets direct revenue from the slots, it does get money for leasing the gaming space to the province. In July, Toronto City Council voted 25-19 in favour of a full casino expansion at Woodbine that would add 300 table games and 2,000 electronic gaming machines. An outside casino company picked by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) will operate the casino. Lawson said the latest is the OLG, "has now short-listed to seven bidders, but we don’t know who they are… The OLG appears anxious to move (the casino expansion) along." Though no plans have yet been approved at WEG's Mohawk Racetrack, Lawson said, “my goal, quite frankly, is to duplicate (casino expansion) at Mohawk". Mohawk is located in the municipality of Milton, which has already approved the zoning for a potential casino expansion. WEG just needs the go-ahead from the OLG. 7. Extensive property development Casino expansion is critical to unlocking a sustainable future because WEG plans extensive property development to go along with it. "We have a large land development opportunity and between the two sites we have 1,000 acres of land that we hold," Lawson said. Lawson is a big proponent of bringing a wide range of entertainment, hospitality, retail and residential tenants to Woodbine's 700-acre property, which features terrific access by surrounding highways, more than 7,000 parking spots and the possibility of a light-rail or subway stop in the future. Pearson Airport just added a rail link to downtown. It is one of the largest parcels of undeveloped land in the city of Toronto. "We're keen on what it will mean to the community and the jobs in the community. In effect, once that process gets secure, we have entered into an arrangement or a negotiated agreement for a long-term development at Woodbine Racetrack. "To me, what that does for the entire industry, Thoroughbred and Standardbred, certainly puts some long-term economics into this organization ,whose sole mandate is horse racing," Lawson said. Dave Briggs  

There are 27 Ontario Sired Breeders Crown finalists racing at Woodbine Saturday night, including homebred elimination winner Solar Sister trained by Gregg McNair and driven by his son, Doug, who are both looking for their first harness racing Breeders Crown victory. Veteran Ontario trainer Gregg McNair of Guelph said he would love nothing more than to win the Breeders Crown with his son, Doug, in the sulky and ultra-talented Ontario Sired three-year-old pacing filly Solar Sister leading them to the winner’s circle Saturday at Woodbine. It would be the first Crown victory for either McNair. “I’ve had a few Breeders Crown starts and it’s awfully good to just have them race well and get money, but with that horse and with Doug driving her, it would be a great thrill to win it,” Gregg said. Solar Sister is one of 27 Ontario Sired horses racing in the 12-race, $7.6 million Breeders Crown at Woodbine and one of the best. No horse, regardless of gait or gender, earned more money in the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program in 2015 than Solar Sister, which is only fitting since she’s the product of a royal Ontario family going back to her Ontario Sired graddam Cathedra, one of the greatest mares in the history of harness racing. “You don’t have to be up on the horses too much to know the family,” Gregg said. Solar Sister, a homebred owned by David Willmot of King City, ON and Clay Horner of Toronto, earned $317,150 of her seasonal total of $507,494 in the OSS competition, where she won three Gold Series legs and the $250,000 Super Final on Oct. 10 at Woodbine Racetrack. But after a lacklustre fourth-place finish on Oct. 1 in a Gold Series leg at Flamboro Down, Gregg said he knew something was wrong. At first he thought it was the fact the daughter of Mach Three out of the millionaire Cabrini Hanover had not raced in almost a month. Then he discovered a foot injury. “It was quite a mess,” Gregg said. “Either some gravel or maybe she hit it one time in the field or something. I don’t know what it was, but she was really sore on it. You wouldn’t have been able to race her. She wasn’t just a little off, she was a lot off.” Gregg said the injury healed the week before the Super Finals. “Touch wood, she’s been good ever since,” he said. Last Saturday, Solar Sister posted a one-length victory over Frost Damage Blue in 1:52.1 in their Crown elimination. “We didn’t have a lot of work in her before the Super Finals,” Gregg said. “We didn’t have her quite as tight as she should have been, so I’m expecting a pretty good effort Saturday.” Solar Sister will start from post three in the fourth race, going for a Breeders Crown purse of $648,700. She’s the second choice in the morning line at 7-2 behind Joe Holloway’s trainee Divine Caroline (2-1). Solar Sister will not only be trying to win a first Crown for the McNairs, she will also be trying to avenge her mother’s two Breeders Crown defeats. In 2005, Cabrini Hanover, finished second by a neck to Belovedangel in the Breeders Crown three-year-old filly pace at the Meadowlands. The year before, she was leading at the top of the stretch in the Crown final for two-year-old pacing fillies and finished fifth. Cabrini Hanover was originally purchased for $350,000 as a yearling at the 2003 Standardbred Horse Sales Company sale in Harrisburg, PA by Willmot and his close friend Bob Anderson of St. Thomas, ON. When Anderson died in 2010, Horner bought into Cabrini Hanover. Shortly after that, the decision was made to breed Cabrini Hanover to Mach Three. The resulting foal was Solar Sister, named after a clean energy movement for women in Africa. Willmot also has an advanced solar energy project at his Kinghaven Farm. “We were coming off a pretty good season and she was bred in Ontario, so we got the opportunity to train her. It’s sure something to train something out of that family,” said Gregg, who hadn’t trained for Willmot or Horner prior to Solar Sister. “I would say we raced her a few times early as a two-year-old probably thinking she was fairly average. We really didn’t know she was having a tie-up issue. We were part way through her two-year-old season when we figured it out. She finished off really good last year as a two-year-old… She was fairly close to (U.S. and Canadian Horse of the Year) JK Shesalday at the end of the year.” Solar Sister did indeed finish second, one-and-a-half lengths behind JK Shesalady in the $424,000 final of the Three Diamonds on Oct. 25, 2014 at Woodbine. She ended the year with a record of 2-3-4 in 13 starts, earnings of $214,828 and a mark of 1:54. This year, she is 8-2-1 in 15 starts and a mark of 1:50.3 earned at Mohawk on July 2 in a Gold leg. “Obviously David and I are very pleased with her season and in particular her last two starts,” Horner wrote in an email. “She loves Woodbine (two wins this year and her two seconds to JK Shesalady in Three Diamonds last year) and has a great post.” If she does win the Breeders Crown, Solar Sister would enhance her chance to win an O’Brien Award as Canada’s top sophomore pacing filly of 2015. “If she is fortunate enough to win the O'Brien, she would be the third straight generation on the female side to win, which would be very special,” wrote Horner, adding it would be the sixth O’Brien Award in Solar Sister’s talented clan, counting the male side. Dave Briggs Ontario Horse Racing

L A Delight’s caretaker has looked after 11 horses and three generations of a harness racing royal Ontario equine family going back to a Camluck-sired matriarch named Los Angeles. Three generations, 11 horses, more than $4.1 million in earnings and one common denominator — Nicole Pedden-MacQuarrie has groomed virtually every horse from a royal equine family produced by the Bob McIntosh Stables going back to an Ontario Sired matriarch named Los Angeles. The latest star from that talented clan is Los Angeles’ granddaughter L A Delight, a winner of 10 of 11 races and $579,335 that will start from post six Saturday (Oct. 10) in the $250,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final for two-year-old pacing fillies at Woodbine Racetrack. It is one of eight Super Finals on the card that serve as the de facto provincial championships (first race post time is 7:25 p.m.) “This is three generations and (Pedden-MacQuarrie) treats them like her own. She’s done a great job,” said Al McIntosh, L A Delight’s part-owner and part-breeder, the cousin of the filly’s trainer, co-owner and co-breeder Bob McIntosh of LaSalle, ON, who also shares her with the C S X Stables of Liberty Center, OH. Eighteen years ago, Pedden-MacQuarrie graduated from high school and was supposed to return to a summer job working for trainer Jim Ainsworth before heading off to post-secondary school. She landed at the McIntosh Stables instead. “The first year I started there I got the horses nobody wanted and I had a little homebred that made over $100,000 named McGetty,” Pedden-MacQuarrie said. Before long she was vowing to stay just five years. Good thing she reconsidered. After looking after stars such as Woodrow Wilson winner Richess Hanover ($557,537), a Camluck filly named Los Angeles landed in her lap in year six. “I wasn’t the first person that had her in the stall. Actually, she was in a couple of other people’s hands before I got her. Her first start I remember her making a break. It was in Elmira. She had tied up and I thought, ‘What kind of a project do we have here?’ But Bob’s got a pretty good program with tie-up fillies and he just made some changes, worked on her and she came right around. “That mare was just the biggest sweetheart of all of them. She never gave you any kind of attitude in the barn,” Pedden-MacQuarrie said of Los Angeles, who earned $289,213 in 2003 and 2004 before being bred. So began a beautiful relationship. Along the way, Pedden-MacQuarrie also met her husband, Mark MacQuarrie at Windsor Raceway. MacQuarrie has worked as an assistant trainer for Bob McIntosh for some eight years. Today, all three horses Pedden-MacQuarrie looks after for McIntosh are members of Los Angeles’ prolific family, including L A Delight, a two-year-old grandson named New Talent ($64,826) and the family’s superstar, 2012 Pepsi North America Cup winner Thinking Out Loud, who has earned just shy of $2 million. Thinking Out Loud, now six and still racing, is Los Angeles’ son. “He’s my boy,” Pedden-MacQuarrie said. “He was pretty exceptional right from day one. He had a lot of go. It’s just too bad he had a bone bruise as a two-year-old and we had to shut him down, but he did exceptionally well as a three-year-old… He’s pretty confident in himself, which is a good thing. He’s just always done everything right.” Pedden-MacQuarrie was five months pregnant with her son, Benjamin MacQuarrie, when Randy Waples drove Thinking Out Loud to victory in the NA Cup. “I was up on the track and I thought I was in the way of the cameras. I was screaming for him before he hit the wire. I remember jumping six feet off the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever jumped that high. That was quite the thrill,” Pedden-MacQuarrie said. Bob has said L A Delight — a winner of all four of her OSS events, as well as the $227,500 final of the She’s A Great Lady at Mohawk — turned out to be a bit of a surprise. It explains why he didn’t keep her eligible to the Breeders Crown. Pedden-MacQuarrie said she knew L A Delight was special from the start. “He was really high on a couple of other fillies and she wasn’t really strong finishing when it came time to qualifying. Bob knew she was nice and he really liked her, but she just wasn’t the standout he was looking for.” Until she hit the track. “When she’s at the track, she knows what she’s there for. She’s all business when she’s there. As soon as you take her in the paddock, she is a different horse. She has the desire to win,” Pedden-MacQuarrie said. “As I said to Bob, ‘It’s been an exceptionally nice family, but her desire is like no other.’” L A Delight is a Bettor's Delight filly out of Los Angeles’ daughter West Of L A, who earned $257,150 before being bred. Pedden-MacQuarrie looked after West Of L A, as well, of course, as well as her sister You See L A ($249,339), the dam of New Talent. From that same family, the groom also has cared for L A Confidential ($6,400), See You L A ($3,160), West Coast Rocker ($34,478) and Somewhere in L A ($698,595). The only one she didn’t look after was LA Rockstar, who came along the year Pedden-MacQuarrie was on maternity leave. Is it a coincidence LA Rockstar is the only horse in the family not to earn a penny on the racetrack? “Everyone in the family I can say has been pretty smart and they’ve all been pretty easy on themselves. It’s a good family,” Pedden-MacQuarrie said. But L A Delight might one day rival Thinking Out Loud for superstar status. “She’s so smart, probably too smart for her own good,” said Pedden-MacQuarrie, who knows a thing or two about what makes this outstanding equine family tick. Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

An average that was up nearly 70 per cent over the 2014 harness racing sale wasn’t the only thing to like about the Canadian Yearling Sale held Sunday in Hamilton. David Reid said Ontario standardbred horse breeders have reason for optimism after Sunday’s (Sept. 20) Canadian Yearling Sale at the Standardbred Canada Sales Pavilion at Flamboro Downs in Hamilton, ON. Reid, whose U.S. -based bloodstock business Preferred Equine Marketing sold nearly half of the 119 yearlings that went through the auction ring, said he thought the sale, “was very good.” In all, 119 yearlings grossed $2,540,700 for an average price of $21,350 that was up 69.4 per cent from the 2014 sale average of $12,614. Thirty-six fewer horses were sold this year compared to 2014. “The attendance was terrific and the enthusiasm was great,” Reid said. “There was a lot of interest really from (the preview on) Saturday and it carried right into Sunday. From the sales ring perspective, I thought it was a very encouraging market, better than it had been in the past. “You have to drill down into the numbers to figure out where the increases came from, but I would say maybe the four components are: supply and demand, currency, the bonus program and the overall strength of the Ontario (Sires Stakes) program. I think people realize it’s a very good program.” The Ontario Sires Stakes program is one of the most lucrative jurisdictional breeding programs in the global harness racing industry with total purses in 2015 of more than $15 million. This year’s crop of Ontario Sired yearlings is one of the smallest in recent years and that has led to the supply and demand issue. Reid said he thinks the low crop numbers, taken in concert with the fact the Canadian dollar is currently relatively low versus the U.S. dollar means Canadians may be opting to spend more of their money on Ontario Sired yearlings sold in Ontario, rather than traveling to the United States to buy the Ontario Sired yearlings sold there. Trainer Dustin Jones of Waterdown, ON agreed with Reid. “The nicer individuals did sell for a good dollar,” Jones said, “but I think the big cause was the supply and demand and not having many out there.” Reid said he thinks new bonuses for owners of Ontario Sired horses ( also helped drive the sales numbers up. In place for 2015 and 2016 is a purse bonus of 20 per cent for owners of Ontario Sired two-year-olds competing in overnight races in Ontario and a bonus of five per cent for owners of Ontario Sired two-year-olds competing in Ontario Sires Stakes events. For 2017, the purse bonus system will be replaced with a $2 million program that will provide pro rata bonuses based on horses’ earnings to owners of Ontario Sired and/or Ontario Bred horses. Owners of a horse that is both Ontario Sired and Ontario Bred will earn double the bonus. Ontario Sired horses are ones sired by registered stallions standing in Ontario. Ontario Bred horses are those produced by Ontario Resident mares that reside in Ontario when enrolled in the Ontario Resident Mare program and remain in the province for a minimum of 180 consecutive days surrounding foaling. Reid said the positive sales results gives the province’s standardbred breeders, “some numbers to back up what the industry’s been asking for and stressing, which is if you put in a nice program, a viable program, it will keep the industry going. It’s good for employment and it’s good for the province of Ontario if the industry is strong.” Jones purchased two yearlings at the sale, both are trotters sired by Manofmanymissions including a filly named Jayport Rosita that he bought for $16,000 on behalf of the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association’s (SBOA) New Owner Mentoring Program ( “It’s really nice to see people so keen,” Jones said of his group of new owners being mentored by Hall of Fame driver Bill O’Donnell. “The mare that we bought has a good pedigree. She’s not small, but she’s not a big filly and I thought we made a really good buy. I couldn’t get over how keen the people were and after we bought the filly how happy they were.” Reid said the breeders for which his Preferred Equine Marketing sold horses were happy, too. “My pulse from my customers was very good. But it was almost like a sigh of relief. They got a little return on their investment, versus taking a loss,” Reid said. The next step, he said, was for breeders to reinvest in better quality mares. “I think what Ontario did with the Sires Stakes program and adding bonus money for Ontario Bred and Ontario Sired horses for overnight races for the younger horses I think is going to encourage breeders maybe to reinvest some money,” Reid said. “I think it’s important for the industry to have a little churn and ultimately it comes from purses. If we can benefit the breeders, there’s going to be horses to race in the province… I think it’s a very important thing to recognize that they need to be paid for what they’re producing.” Reid and Jones both said breeders selling yearlings on Oct. 25 at the Forest City Yearling Sale at the Western Fair Agriplex in London, ON also have reason to be optimistic. “I imagine the people selling at Forest City are pretty happy with what they saw at the Canadian Yearling Sale,” Jones said. Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

When Ontario Sired super mare Bee A Magician turns to the starting gate Saturday in the $680,000 final of 63rd edition of the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk Racetrack, her part-owner Mel Hartman will be biting his nails watching the race on TV from his Ottawa home. The five-year-old daughter of Kadabra out of Beehive has earned more than $3.3 million, but Hartman said he still gets nervous every time she races. "If she can beat the boys I think it is another feather in her hat," Hartman said. "It's an honour, in a way, because usually horses race in their own class, which is tough enough." Hartman shares ownership of Bee A Magician (New Image Media photo) with Montreal native and former Toronto resident Herb Liverman and David McDuffee of Florida. Bee A Magician finished a neck behind Natural Herbie Sept. 12 in their Maple Leaf Trot elimination. The mare drew post two in the final, which is race seven on a card that features four other rich stakes finals for trotters, including the $700,000 Canadian Trotting Classic for three-year-olds. "I feel more confident this week, because last week she hadn't raced in about three weeks and I thought she'd be short, but she raced very well," Hartman said. Earning a cheque would push Bee A Magician past Hall of Fame pacer Somebeachsomewhere on the all-time earnings list for Ontario-sired standardbreds into fourth place behind trotter Arch Madness ($4.3 million) and pacers Mister Big ($4.1 million) and Boulder Creek ($3.8 million). Hartman said Bee A Magician would be given every opportunity, health willing, to continue to climb the money list. On Oct. 10, she will represent Canada while taking on the boys again in the $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway in New York City. "I think we would like to race her as long as she's sound and healthy. If she can continue to race at this level I take a look at what Moni Maker made and there's been some comparisons of (Bee A Magician) to that horse," Hartman said of the late, great U.S. trotting mare that earned nearly $5.6 million lifetime and frequently beat the boys in stakes races on both sides of the Atlantic. "That horse was a hell of a horse. I don't know if (Bee A Magician) is in the same league or not, but she can be mentioned in the same paragraph, that's for sure." Two years after Bee A Magician was a perfect 17-for-17 and earned more than $1.57 million en route to the Horse of the Year Award in both Canada and the United States, the magic mare is still a model of incredible consistency. She's won eight of 12 starts this year and put more than $550,000 in the bank for driver Brian Sears and New Jersey based Richard "Nifty" Norman. "Honestly, every day I think about her I have to pinch myself that I own a horse like that," Hartman said. "She's just one hell of an athlete. She knows how to take care of herself and she's really something special... I can't say enough about her. She's just a special, special horse. It's more than a once-in-a-lifetime dream. It's an honour to own a piece of her." Hartman, the owner of the wholesale produce company Orleans Fresh Fruit based in Ottawa, said some of his customers get a kick out of seeing what trinkets he's added to the Bee A Magician display he has in his office. "It's nice to work away at my desk and look up and see her. It just gives me a warm feeling," he said. "I have Breeders Crown trophies, I have pictures. If I added more I'd have to build a bigger office and add more walls." He would dearly love to add a Maple Leaf Trot to the collection, despite no longer having the desire to make the long road trip from the nation's capital to Campbellville to see the race in person. "It would be a hell of an honour to win Canada's prestige trotting event and something that would be down in history forever. It's something they'd never be able to take away from her," Hartman said. By Dave Briggs, for Ontario Horse Racing  

Four years after being diagnosed with colon cancer, the Hall of Fame harness racing driver is on a roll on Canada’s top circuit and has a shot to win the $685,000 Metro Pace Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack. Hall of Fame driver Steve Condren said winning his first Metro Pace Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack would be nice, especially at this stage of his career, but he counts being able to drive horses at all as a bonus after his 2011 battle with colon cancer. “After going through what I went through, just being here is a beautiful thing,” Condren said. The 58-year-old Milton, Ont. resident will pilot Betting Line for trainer Casie Coleman of Cambridge, Ont. in the $685,000 stakes race for two-year-old pacers. Ken Middleton, Jr., the standardbred race caller for the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) that includes Mohawk and her sister track, Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, said it is amazing Condren still is driving on Canada’s top loop. “He’s a survivor,” Middleton said. “This is the toughest circuit anywhere for guys to survive on. Take a look at Doug Brown, Dave Wall. Those guys were kingpins the same time Steve Condren was in his prime. Steve has kind of reinvented himself and he shows up and he’s still here. Why those other guys aren’t still here, I don’t know. They’re talented guys, too.” Condren worked with Coleman’s stable in Florida over the winter to keep busy and stepped in to drive for her a little over a month ago when her regular driver, Chris Christoforou, suffered a broken collarbone in a race accident July 24 at Mohawk. “I didn’t really know Steve all that well over the years until he asked me if I wanted him to jog and train some horses just for something to do in the winter in Florida,” Coleman said. “He helped me out a lot this winter. He’s very knowledgeable. Besides being a very, very good driver, he’s very, very good at training one and hanging one up and going really good, proper fractions with training miles. He was, obviously, a big improvement for my barn this year. He told me right from the get-go that he wasn’t looking to get any drives. He just wanted something to do in the winter and he really enjoyed training. After Chris got hurt I was kind of stuck and needed somebody. So, I’ve been using (Condren) and he’s been doing a really good job for me.” Condren has started 22 times for Coleman in a little more than a month, posting a 6-3-4 record and earnings just a few dollars shy of $100,000. “Lately, it’s been fun. No complaints, that’s for sure,” Condren said. One of Condren’s biggest wins so far for Coleman came Aug. 29 when he drove Betting Line to a 1:52.2, two-and-a-quarter length victory in the last of three $40,000 Metro Pace eliminations. Betting Line has post two in the Metro final (race seven) that is part of a stakes-rich card that includes the 72nd edition of the Canadian Pacing Derby for older pacers (race eight, $685,000) and the $455,000 final of the Shes A Great Lady for two-year-old pacing fillies (race 10). First-race post time is 7:05 p.m. Betting Line, an Ontario-sired son of Bettors Delight out of Heathers Western that was purchased for $60,000 at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling sale in Harrisburg, Pa., has won four of his six starts for Coleman and Ross Warriner’s West Wins Stable, Christine Calhoun of Chatham, Ont. and Mac Nichol of Burlington, Ont.  Condren also was driving when Betting Line posted his career-best mile of 1:51.4 in an overnight race Aug. 6 at Mohawk. “He was one of (Coleman’s) better colts all winter down there,” Condren said. “He’s progressing well. This is a big test for him. So far, he’s stepped up to the plate and looks pretty good doing it.” Considering Condren has spent virtually his entire 38-year career at WEG and has crafted out a specialty driving young horses, it is surprising he has never won the Metro Pace. “Working with the young horses is something I like to do,” Condren said. “That’s kept me in this business this long.” “At this time of year, people love Steve Condren on young horses,” Middleton said. Coleman said Condren, “never hurts one, but, yet, he’s always got them in play… He’s very good with the young ones. Besides how good he drives them and always brings you a horse back for next week, he’s also really good at helping you if you have issues and need to change the equipment. He’s a very smart horseman.” The Metro Pace is part of a busy weekend for Condren. Friday night, he will drive Deep Impact in the second of two $118,907 Champlain divisions at Mohawk for trainer Brad Maxwell of Guelph, Ont. On Aug. 20, Condren drove the two-year-old gelded trotter to victory in the $35,600 final of the Define The World stakes at Mohawk. Maxwell and Condren previously teamed up on such stars as Elegantimage (nearly $1 million lifetime) and Pure Ivory (nearly $1.5 million lifetime). On Saturday, Condren will also drive Reverend Hanover for Coleman in a $25,000 three-year-old conditioned race. Reverend Hanover was a top two-year-old that has earned more than $275,000 lifetime. Sunday afternoon, Condren will meet fans, sign autographs and drive in the $15,000 Legends Day Trot at Clinton Raceway ( against seven other Hall of Fame drivers. It will be the second time Condren has appeared at the biannual Legends Day since being inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2011, not long after he was diagnosed with cancer. Condren drove just a handful of times in 2011, but was in the sulky nearly 200 times in 2012 and has slowly increased his workload each year since. In 2014, he drove over 600 times and earned over $1.5 million, the first time he has topped seven figures since 2010 and the 31st time he’s done it in a career in which he’s won 6,784 races and driven the winners of more than $113 million. He said his last medical checkup went well, and “everything is going in the right direction still, so far, which is good… I put a lot of effort into keeping in good shape. What I went through, and at my age, you have to be in decent shape to compete out there now. So, I put a big effort into that.” An avid golfer, Condren said he plays four to six rounds a week. “I’m still walking and carrying as part of my keeping-in-shape routine… That’s a nice walk every day.” As for his driving career, Condren is big on perspective. “I’m happy to be around, never mind driving horses,” he said. “I always said to myself that if I start getting in people’s way out there I’ll give it up. So far, I haven’t been doing too much of that.” Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

From humble beginnings to this year’s silver anniversary blowout, Grand River Raceway’s premier event has become one of the great days on the Canadian racing calendar. It began on a meagre budget as a way to help a struggling racetrack build an identity. Twenty-five years later, Industry Day has grown into one of the best events on the Canadian horse-racing calendar. The annual fete that has been instrumental in helping put Grand River Raceway on the map. On Monday, Aug. 3, the Elora, Ont. track will mark the silver anniversary of Industry Day, a celebration of the business of harness racing that began in 1990 at the track’s predecessor, Elmira Raceway. Dr. Ted Clarke, general manager of Grand River Raceway, said Industry Day was the brainchild of the late Ken Middleton, Sr., Elmira Raceway’s former race secretary, who “was instrumental in those early discussions.” At the time, Elmira Raceway was just three years removed from shutting down because it didn’t have enough money to operate. Clarke said Industry Day would never have happened without what was then a controversial decision in January of 1990 to begin taking the simulcast signal for one race program a week from Greenwood Raceway in Toronto. “It was the first time there had been common pool wagering in the province,” Clarke said. “Greenwood sent its signal in January on Saturday afternoons. We only ran one program a week, but it was extremely successful and it changed the menu that was before us, so to speak. We had to opportunity to take some of the revenue gained from that and try to do things that would build the success of that operation. So, one of the things that came up was, ‘We really need a day that identifies Elmira Raceway that can be that signature event.’” Clarke said Industry Day, “started with a cost structure that wasn’t too extravagant but depended, largely, on people who volunteered their activities.” Early Industry Days featured well-attended seminars on a variety of important industry topics. Clarke remembers breeder Jack McNiven of Killean Acres giving a talk on how to prepare yearlings for the auction ring. Trainer Doug Arthur spoke about selecting yearlings at a sale. “At that time many people hadn’t spent a lot of time associating with the best practices of the industry. In some cases, if you had a bit of an advantage in your ability to select a yearling over somebody else, it wasn’t exactly knowledge that you might willingly share, because it was your advantage. So, we sort of went out on a limb a little bit and had, what I thought were pretty good, semi-educational seminars and certainly knowledge sharing,” Clarke said. In 1998, Elmira Raceway launched the Battle of Waterloo, and added it to the Industry Day celebration. The track’s marquee stakes race proved to be an instant hit. It’s estimated 8,000 people were at Industry Day that year to see Distinctiv Seelster and trainer/driver Carl Jamieson win the inaugural Battle. The race for two-year-old Ontario-sired pacing colts will have its 18th edition on Aug. 3, along with a companion race for two-year-old Ontario-sired pacing fillies called the Battle of the Belles that was added to Industry Day in 2009. Clarke said Industry Day even had an influence on the design of Grand River Raceway, which opened in 2003. “As part of the design, there was a lot of topsoil on this site that had to be stripped when we started into the redevelopment. Rather than truck it away, we simply piled it in piles around the track and created the berms on which people now can sit and watch the races. It was, again, making use of what we had and it created a circumstance that at least for that day is the right venue,” said Clarke, who was also a proponent of keeping Grand River a smaller, half-mile oval like Elmira Raceway that is more fan friendly. In time, the seminars faded from the lineup and the Battle of Waterloo and Battle of the Belles became the main attraction to Industry Day, which has always been an afternoon card held on the Civic Holiday Monday in August. Over time, Industry Day became a family friendly day complete with a long list of activities for kids, which has proven especially popular in recent years since the Grand River Agricultural Society that owns and operates the track no longer holds a fall fair. This year, Industry Day will feature the usual face painting, balloon artists, bouncy castles and pony rides for the kids and two backstretch beer tents for the adults. Kelly Spencer, Grand River’s manager of marketing and communications, has a range of fun activities and special giveaways planned to celebrate the 25th anniversary, including $5,000 in prizes such as Callaway Golf Clubs, Kate Spade and Tony Burch purses, a barbecue and a lawn mower. This year will also mark the 11th edition of the popular Bouncy Pony Stakes where trainers and drivers race each other by bouncing down the track on inflatable ponies. Eliminations for the two Battle races, will be held the evening of Monday, July 27, with two eliminations needed to determine the eight finalists for the $207,397 final of the Battle of Waterloo and three required to whittle the field to eight for the $140,246 final of the Battle of the Belles. Post time is 1:30 p.m. for the 12-race Industry Day card that also features Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series legs for three-year-old pacing fillies and a Racing Under Saddle event. Clarke, who was part of the management team in 1990 at Elmira Raceway when Industry Day started, said he can’t believe how much the harness racing industry has changed in a quarter century. Twenty-five years ago, even beaming in one card of racing a week from another track was considered controversial. Today, patrons can easily wager on horse racing from around the world by using their smart phones. “I had a birthday yesterday, so I’m aware of the time that’s passed,” Clarke said last week. “The time has gone very quickly and I’m sure everybody else my age would say the same thing. But, it’s been fun.” For more information on Industry Day, please visit: Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

Ownerr Marvin Katz said no one should count out his star colt Artspeak on Saturday night in the Meadowlands Pace, one of harness racing's great races. "He's a superb horse. He's nearly at $1 million already in earnings. He started the year off spectacularly," the Toronto owner said Wednesday. Artspeak, the fourth betting choice in the morning line at 6-1, is one of the few Ontario-connected horses to make the $706,000 final of the 39th edition of the race contested at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey (30-1 longshot Revenge Shark owned, in part, by Bradley Grant of Milton is the other). Artspeak will be driven by Oakville native Scott Zeron. "I would be happy to wave the flag on Saturday night," Katz said. "It would make me very happy." In 2014, Artspeak was honoured as the two-year-old pacing colt of the year in both Canada and the United States after he won some $800,000 with eight wins in 10 races, including the $667,000 Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville and the $565,000 Governor's Cup at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Though, Meadowlands Pace favourite Wiggle It Jiggleit and Pepsi North America Cup champion Wakizashi Hanover have proven to be slightly ahead of Artspeak this year, so far, Artspeak has been first or second five times out of seven starts. And he already has a 1:48.4 mile, which means he can't be discounted in Saturday's big race, especially after drawing the three-hole on the starting gate in the field of 10. "He won in 1:48.4 in New Jersey and we thought we were good to go for Canada." "When we shipped him to Canada, his blood work wasn't right." "We almost scratched him from the (Pepsi North America Cup) eliminations." "His blood work was really messed up when he arrived and he still was just beaten by Wakizashi Hanover." "He raced really big, but I think (the sickness) bit him." "Then we drew the 10-hole (for the final) and it was just a no-shot situation, absolutely no shot," Katz said. "Then we went right to the (Max) Hempt (at Pocono) and he won his elimination and, again, he was spectacular." He had horses all over him and he just refused to lose." "He was second in the final to Wiggle It Jiggleit, who on the day was a better horse." Katz, who owns Artspeak in partnership with a group of Americans, is racing a number of top young stakes horses Friday and Saturday at the Meadowlands, most of them trotters. He said he would dearly love to win his third Meadowlands Pace. n 2013, Katz was part of a group that won with Captaintreacherous for U.S.-based trainer Tony Alagna, who also conditions Artspeak. Eighteen years ago, Katz had what he calls one of his greatest victories in the sport when a colt named Dream Away won the $1-million Meadowlands Pace for him and his longtime ownership partners Sam Goldband and Al Libfeld — all of the Toronto area. In the winner's circle, the Canadians exhibited tremendous emotion. "It's still a very vivid memory to me," Katz said. "It is, without question, one of the highlights of everything we've done in the business." "It was the first really big one we enjoyed." "It was exhilarating." "The race, the experience of it and even the after-experience." "At the time ESPN carried the race." "I had people for about a year, perhaps even longer, coming up to me in airports and commenting that they saw me and mentioned the jubilation that we experienced." "We were over the moon." Saturday, Katz would gladly be the recipient of another moon shot. Dave Briggs Dave Briggs is the president of the Canadian chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. He can be reached by email at

Former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jesse Barfield admits he doesn’t have any experience with horses, but he’s looking forward to meeting harness racing fans Sunday (July 12) at Clinton Raceway in support of Clinton Minor Baseball. Barfield played 14 years in the Major Leagues for Toronto (1981 to ’89) and the New York Yankees (’89 to ’92). While with the Jays, Barfield won gold gloves in 1986 and 1987 and was also an all-star in ’86, the same year he won the American League home run title and the Silver Slugger award. “Most fans want to know what it was like playing in Toronto versus New York and I tell them I thoroughly enjoyed playing in both cities and for both teams,” Barfield said. “Both cities are culturally diverse and are great baseball towns with a good fan base. Of course, the Yankees have such a rich history, and it was exciting wearing the pin stripes. And with the Blue Jays it was nice going from worst to first with mostly homegrown players. Barfield, known for his great arm in the outfield, said he likes to teach young outfielders to, “stay focused on defense when you are in the field and anticipate the ball being hit to you that way your reaction time is sharper and you get a better jump on the ball.” The rise of the Blue Jays in the 1980s and 1990s is believed to have had a positive impact on Canadian youth baseball, particularly in Ontario. Barfield said Canadian kids are “very eager to learn and get better” and “are fundamentally sound because of the quality of coaches that they have access to.” Barfield will appear at Clinton from 3:30-5:30 p.m. The races start at 1:30 p.m. A silent auction will include two tickets anywhere Air Canada flies. The Pineridge Barbecue Company will serve a chicken dinner under the grandstand from 4-5 p.m. for $15 per person. Takeout will be available. The former Toronto Blue Jays all-star slugger will be available for photos and autographs from 3:30-5:30 in support of Clinton Minor Baseball. For more information, please visit: Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

Five years after harness racing trainer Casie Coleman won the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup and set Sportswriter on track to become the leading stallion in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, the trainer is back in the NA Cup with Arque Hanover. Casie Coleman of Cambridge remembers Sportswriter’s 2010 victory in the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Racetrack as if it was yesterday, not five years ago. “Saying that, I’ve got three-year-olds of his in the barn,” she said, laughing. “Time flies.” Sportswriter, now based at Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, ON, is the leading stallion in the Ontario Sires Stakes program. Coleman said it all started with his Pepsi North America Cup win. “We had a rough Cup week with Sportswriter. I wasn’t even sure we were going to be able to race in the final that week (due to serious feet problems). He ended up winning it and it was pretty special,” Coleman said. “Obviously that sealed the deal to take him to stud which was going to be a huge stepping stone. So far, he’s proven himself as a sire.” Saturday night, Coleman will try to win the NA Cup for the second time in her career. She sends out Arque Hanover from post seven with Hall of Famer John Campbell in the bike on behalf of part-owner and fellow trainer Jeff Gillis of Hillsburgh, ON. Earlier this year, Gillis sent Arque Hanover to Coleman’s U.S. stable to race in a stakes event at Yonkers Raceway in New York City. Coleman maintains stables in Canada and New Jersey. When Arque Hanover returned to Canada, Gillis and fellow owners Mac Nichol of Burlington, ON, Big Als Stable of Woodbridge, ON and Gerald Stay of Buffalo, NY opted to keep the son of Rock N Roll Heaven with Coleman for the North America Cup run. “Switching barns back and forth so many times wasn’t going to make much sense for the horse. So, they just decided they would keep him with me for the Cup. Then after the Cup he’s going back to the States and he’s pretty fully staked through the summer in the U.S.” Coleman said she was impressed with Arque Hanover’s second-place finish in his NA Cup elimination on June 13, despite finishing six lengths behind morning line Cup favourite Wiggle It Jiggleit, an opponent Coleman calls “an absolute creature. No one’s beaten him, yet, and he’s just been awesome.” Arque Hanover, winless in five starts this year, has been pegged at 25-1 in the morning line. “Hopefully, they can go some speed duels up front. I don’t believe mine will be part of the speed duel, but you never know. He can leave lots if (John) Campbell decides to do that. But, in a perfect world, I’d love to somehow be second over. That would be sweet, but I’m a realist… Not many people can beat Wiggle It Jiggleit, especially the way he looked last week. But, it’s a horse race. You never know and I think my horse is as good as any of the other ones.” “He’s just a sweetheart. He’s good-gaited, he’s a nice horse in the barn. Everything we’ve asked of him, he does it. He just wants to do his job. He digs hard right to the wire and he definitely doesn’t want to be beaten. We’ve only had the horse about a month or so, but, so far, I haven’t found many bad qualities on him.” The $1 million Pepsi North America Cup is race 12 on a gangbusters 15-race, stakes-rich Mohawk card that starts with a 6:30 p.m. first-race post. The Pepsi North America Cup will also be televised live on TSN. The show begins at 10 p.m. For more information about the Pepsi North America Cup, including a long list of fan promotions, please visit: Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

Hanover Raceway kicks off its 51st pari-mutuel season of grassroots harness racing Saturday (June 6) with a free Hanover Raceway ball cap giveaway to the first 250 patrons to buy a program. It’s all part of a jam-packed summer of promotions that are part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the track’s operators, the Hanover Bentinck and Brant Agricultural Society. The track will race on 16 Saturday nights this summer through the Sept. 26 closing card (excluding Aug. 8 when the track is dark to prepare for the annual Hanover Fair to be held Aug. 15-17). This Saturday, doors open at 6 p.m. The first-race post time is 7:15 p.m., the same time it will be for Hanover Raceway’s whole season, except for the Aug. 1 card featuring the Dream of Glory stakes final and the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Grassroots event for three-year-old pacing fillies. That card starts an hour early at 6:15 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.) and will feature a barbeque, live band, carriage rides, a celebrity horse and a fireworks display after the races. Other notable promotions include: • the Balanced Image stakes on Aug. 29 featuring a live band and numerous prize giveaways. • OSS Grassroots event for three-year-old filly trotters on Sept. 5. • a Molson Men’s day on June 20 (Father’s Day eve) in which dads have a chance to win up to $2,000 in prizes, including barbeques, golf clubs and more. • Racing Under Saddle on July 4. • The Country 93 Survivor Contest through the month of July. • A big closing card on Sept. 26 featuring prizes and season-ending awards honouring the track’s top horse and horsepeople for 2015. For more information, check out Hanover Raceway’s OHR page:                or the track’s website: Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

The fun, family-friendly Elora, ON track opens its 12th season of live harness racing with cosmetic improvements and a goal to improve its already exceptional customer service. Grand River Raceway in Elora, ON will open its 12th season of live harness racing on Monday with some cosmetic improvements, a refreshed website and a mission to improve on customer service that already well exceeds industry standards. Renovations to the track began last month and will be finished this fall. Improvements include painting, lighting, flooring and new furniture to the Simulcast Lounge, upper lobby, Wellington Room, Board Room, Captain’s Quarters Dining Room, and Lighthouse Restaurant. Working to improve customer service at a track already known for a fun, fan-friendly atmosphere has involved extensive staff training. Nearly 100 Grand River employees will have eight hours of customer care training and also receive additional training that gives them first-hand exposure to horses. “Every staff person will get their hands on the horses and actually get to drive a horse, so they have an understanding of our product — at least a very basic understanding of our product,” said marketing director Kelly Spencer. “We’ve created a set of principles and a whole manual for both the staff and the managers. We’re making fairly significant changes even in just our language in how we talk to each other about the customers. How we address customers and how we address each other. We’re trying to really not just improve the customer care, but really change the whole underpinning of how we think about the customer.” The goal is for all Grand River Raceway employees to be able to answer any customer question. For patrons, it all begins when they walk through the door. Grand River Raceway has set up a customer care counter in the lobby to act as a hub for first-time or infrequent patrons, or anyone that needs particular attention. Improving customer service might be a tall order considering Grand River Raceway already received extremely high marks for how it treats its guest in a multi-year market research study the track commissioned. Spencer is particularly proud the track already has scored well in dealing with customers, but said, “to move the needle up another notch sort of requires this kind of transformative change. “It’s a very big undertaking. It’s very ambitious. I’m certainly not going to promise that people will notice a marked shift in a couple weeks. It’s a process, but it’s one of the most important initiatives that we’ve done, to date.” Still, it’s a change Spencer said is a necessity in today’s competitive marketplace. “We’re really striving to be a customer care organization that also features live entertainment,” Spencer said. “It’s really a customer care organization first. Which, from a racing perspective, when you look at a history of harness racing, I think it’s safe to say that, unfortunately, that has not been a priority for most racing enterprises for many, many years.” Grand River will feature 49 cards of live racing this summer. The track will race Monday and Wednesday nights from June 1 through Sept. 30. Its signature Fun & Frivolity Friday night cards will run June 5 through Sept. 4. Post time is 6:30 p.m., except for the annual Industry Day / Battle of Waterloo card that starts at 1:30 p.m. on the Aug. 3 Civic Holiday Monday. There is no live racing at the Elora track on Aug. 21. Monday’s Opening Night card will also mark the sixth annual Local Biz Night event in co-operation with the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce. More than 100 local business people will be paired with a horse in the Local Biz Night Race. Prior to the dash, guests are treated to a cocktail reception hosted by the OLG Slots At Grand River Raceway, followed by dinner and a trip to the paddock to meet their horse. For more information, check out Grand River’s OHR page: or the track’s recently-refreshed website: For more information please contact: Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing Please visit:

London, May 12, 2015 -- Camluck left an indelible mark on the standardbred breed, but the impact the super harness racing sire had on Seelster Farms is immeasurable. "Camluck made Seelster Farms. Without a hesitation I say that. Without him we wouldn't be where we are today. He put us on the map," said Ann Straatman, the reproduction manager at the Lucan, Ont. farm where the 28-year-old stallion stood for 25 years before being retired from active duty in October of 2014. Friday night, Camluck will become the first horse and 35th inductee overall to the Wall of Fame at The Raceway at The Western Fair District in London, Ont. "Being the first horse ever is quite an honour. It caught me off guard, but he had a big impact on Western Fair," said trainer Bob McIntosh, the man who trained Camluck and was one of the owners of the pacer that spring-boarded from a million-dollar racing career to become the number one stallion in harness racing history in North America by total progeny earnings. Camluck's progeny have earned just shy of $220 million in total. The late, great Western Hanover is second on the list. His offspring have earned approximately $211 million combined. Camluck was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. Straatman said Camluck not only was the most fertile stallion Seelster has ever stood, he also consistently passed on his "drive and intelligence" to his progeny. "He is, by far, the smartest horse we've ever had, and that's a lot of horses," Straatman said. "There isn't a smarter horse than he is. He's that smart. He puts that attitude into his foals. We notice it with his yearlings when we go to video them. They video terribly... They won't be chased. They're too smart to be chased. They'll turn around and look at you and wonder, 'What are you chasing me for?' It is absolutely an intelligence that comes right from (Camluck)." McIntosh said he trained a lot of horses sired by Camluck and a common trait was their ability to race tough. "I think most of them, even when they aren't 100 per cent, suck it up and give 110 per cent. That's rare amongst sires," McIntosh said. "Another thing, too, I noticed about them. When you breed to some sires, if you don't get a stakes horse, you don't even have a horse. Camluck sired horses of any class. You could get a good hard-hitting racehorse or you could get a stakes horse. You didn't have to worry about getting a filly or getting a colt, because they were both good." Camluck will join Seelster Farms' late owner Chris Van Bussel on The Raceway's Wall of Fame. Van Bussel was inducted in 2004. "I was glad that Chris Van Bussel had (Camluck)," McIntosh said. "I can remember having a meeting to send (Camluck to Seelster) and Chris was just a real gentleman. His handshake was as good as a contract. He was one of the nicest, most honourable men I've ever met." Friday's Wall of Fame Night card begins at 7:15 p.m. and will also feature the first race in this year's Racing Under Saddle (RUS) series in Ontario. Fans will have a chance to watch and wager on the event as well as meet and greet the riders. The RUS series is in its second full season in Ontario and has been growing in popularity. Visit for more details. There will also be a number of fan promotions throughout the night and a pair of mini races scheduled as part of the fun. Though, honouring Camluck will be the main event. "It is such an honour to be recognized," Straatman said, "especially at our home track." Straatman said Camluck's "nose is a little out of joint" that he doesn't get to breed anymore, but otherwise, the senior equine is "fantastic", "in good health" and is enjoying living out his days in his private paddock with special lawn as pristine as one might find on a golf course. "Whatever Camluck wants, Camluck gets," Straatman said. By Dave Briggs for The Raceway  

Harness racing announcer Evan Loucks will have his head shaved in Peterborough to raise money for children with cancer. FRASERVILLE, Ontario . . . Kawartha Downs' race announcer Evan Loucks will help try to carve out a new Guinness World Record by having his head shaved May 16 at the Peterborough airport. All donations to the attempt to break the record for the most heads shaved simultaneously will support the Cops For Cancer Pedal For Hope charity that benefits children suffering from cancer. To donate in Loucks' name, visit: and select his name in the "find a participant" link. People may also sign up on the website to participate in the world record attempt. They will need a partner to shave their head. The Guinness World Records website says the current record for most heads shaved simultaneously is 210 set in Mason, Ohio in August of 2014. A few years ago, Loucks participated in Movember to raise awareness for prostate cancer. At the end of the month, he participated in a fundraising night at Kawartha Downs where his mustache was shaved off by staff. Kawartha Downs ( will open its 18-card 2015 harness racing meet on May 30 and race live every Saturday night at 7 p.m. (except Sept. 19) through Oct. 3. The opening night card will feature a ball cap giveaway honouring leading driver Gord Brown. Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing

The president of the Dresden Agricultural Society says the historic track will be ready for the May 31st opener. Lucille Laprise said there was a buoyant atmosphere at Dresden Raceway on Monday when word came that the harness racing track had been granted an 11-race summer meet by the Ontario Racing Commission. "Everybody's been anxiously waiting to see what was going to happen. Now that it's official that we're getting our 11 race days, we are very enthused and we're good to go," said Laprise, the president of the Dresden Agricultural Society that revived the track in 2014. "Dresden Raceway is back on track." Dresden will race predominantly on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. and also include special cards on Canada Day (Wed., July 1) and will close its meet on the Civic Holiday Monday in August (Aug. 3). The 11-race season is the same number of race cards the track had in 2014, though, this year, the season is starting much sooner. "We really have to start spreading the word," Laprise said. "May 31st is going to be here sooner than we think." Harness racing has been conducted in Dresden for over 140 years. The Dresden Exhibition will celebrate its 140th anniversary this summer and harness racing has been conducted there longer than that. In the late-1800s, the Dresden Driving Club organized trials of speed at the track. In the early 1900s, locals gathered in the winter to watch races over the icy Sydenham River. This summer, Dresden Raceway will be part of a southwestern Ontario circuit of small tracks that includes Sarnia's Hiawatha Horse Park and Leamington Raceway. Greg Blanchard will be returning as Dresden Raceway's general manager and Gary Patterson will be back calling the races. "We've got some really good ideas," Laprise said. "We're going to have special race days like we did last year and give-aways and fan appreciation events. We certainly want to invite the people to come back. We've got some great horses, a great track, a great grandstand and we're going to be ready for them." Dave Briggs Standardbred Communications Ontario Horse Racing        

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