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“This might have been just a $3,000 claimer, but it was one of the most important wins of my life,” said Kawartha Downs’ leading driver Gord Brown moments after winning the race named in honour of his late father, Stan, Saturday night at the Fraserville, Ont. racetrack. Brown won the race with Adventure Luck in 1:57.2. It was one of nine memorial races on the program, which paid tribute to several individuals who had tremendous impact on Kawartha Downs since it began 42 years ago. There were many other emotional moments and happy memories shared among the numerous family members on hand including the well known Hie family, who lost the highly respected horseman Roger Hie suddenly earlier this year. Also honoured this evening were Charles Touchburn, an original shareholder and paddock judge, Guy LaRush, one of the best drivers ever at Kawartha, well known horseman Ron Luke, talented farrier Tom Gratton, the first blacksmith at Kawartha Downs, and his wife Ann, sisters and avid harness racing followers and participants Doreen Brock and Leona Wright and former Kawartha Downs’ Telephoto employee and caretaker Brenna Seeley, who was killed tragically in an auto accident at 24. Kawartha Downs is proud to have had the opportunity to recognize their impact on its racetrack. Racing resumes next Saturday night with a 7 p.m. post time. There are just three Saturday nights left of live racing for the 2014 season. To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Kawartha Downs. From the press box at Kawartha Downs

Charlottetown Driving Park hosted a double-header of PEI Colt Stakes on Saturday with the two-year-olds featured during the afternoon card and three-year-olds front and center in the evening. Gilles Barrieau, Clare MacDonald and Mike Stevenson each won three of the stakes divisions, which ranged in purses of $5,400 to $6,300. Barrieau pulled off the biggest upset of the day when he catch-drove Landed Alien to a 1:57.4 triumph, converting from the pocket to defeat heavy favourite Lovineveryminute at odds of 11-1. Jackie Matheson trains the sophomore filly, who earned her first stakes victory and a new lifetime mark. Barrieau also drove two-year-old winners Dixeland Band (1:59) for trainer Kevin MacLean and filly Jann Down (1:59.3) for trainer Stephen Mason. To view the rest of the story click here. Emotional win at Kawartha Downs It was an emotional night at Kawartha Downs tonight for the Boyd family, who buried family patriarch Ross Boyd this afternoon. They then travelled to the track to watch grandson Nick record two victories on the card including one with a horse he owns and trains. Boyd went gate-to-wire with his own colt, two-year-old Rise Against, who won in 1:58.3. Boyd, of Guelph, Ont., also trains the youngster, who was notching his first lifetime win in just two starts. Boyd was also in the winner’s circle following the third race thanks to a 1:57.2 effort by Lucky Regal. “We buried my grandpa this afternoon and tonight down the lane it was like he was helping me across the wire,” Nick said following the win. To view the rest of this story click here.  Accident mars Alberta stakes Mothers Melody and Shark Festival were victorious in the $10,000 Alberta Standardbred Horse Association Filly Stakes for three-year-olds on Saturday afternoon at Alberta Downs, but the final division was marred by an accident at the top the stretch. Charismatic Art (J.F. Gagne) was leading the fillies around the final turn in the second division when she broke stride causing interference to Rummys Command (Jim Marino) in behind and Blue Star Escape (Kelly Hoerdt), who fell in the backfield. The rest of the field was able to get around the breaker with Shark Festival (Keith Clark) closing off cover for the 1:56.3 victory. Favourite Rollin Deep (Travis Cullen) finished one and a quarter length behind in second with Great Desire (Philip Giesbrecht) back in third. Marino was up on his feet quickly after being dumped from the sulky. Hoerdt told Trot Insider he was doing okay after the race, but headed to hospital to have his left ankle x-rayed. Both drivers booked off their remaining assignments after the 10th race accident. To view the rest of this story click here. Hat Trick for Sparling at Leamington Hockey season may not have started yet, but Rob Sparling Jr. scored three wins on the Saturday afternoon card at Leamington Raceway. Starting in the third race with an impressive two-year-old Bettors Delight filly, Passion Delight ($3.70), "Spar" made it look easy, winning in 2:04.3 over the "good" track for trainer Andrew McCabe and owner Glenview Livestock Ltd. of Guelph-Eramosa, Ont. The time of the mile was a track record for freshman fillies. His next win with DS Surprise ($4.10) wasn't so easy as he battled tooth and nail with St Lads Top Model and Alfie Carroll, ending up in a dead-heat for win in 2:00.3. DS Surprise is owned by Archie and Janice McEachern of Alvinston, Ont., with Janice handling the training chores. Sparling's third win was memorable as well, as he drove three-year-old filly Blissfullannmarie ($25.10) to a maiden win in 2:04 for trainer Catharine Gaudreau and owner Don Wilkins of Bothwell, Ont. With the 2014 election campaign just underway, Lakeshore mayor Tom Bain didn't need the winner's circle platform to announce his candidacy as no one in Lakeshore dare run against the popular mayor. Still, he was in the winner's circle with his trainee Wallet Sniffer, catch-driven by Alex Lilley for owner Don McMurren of South Woodslee, Ont. and parked the mile in 2:02.3. The handle for the Saturday afternoon card was $9,153. To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Leamington Raceway. (With files from Leamington Raceway)

Reg Gassien, a long time favourite driver at Kawartha Downs, recorded his 4,500th driving victory on Saturday night in the 10th race and was right back after the 11th to notch win 4,501. Gassien’s first win came courtesy of P H Cakeboss, who was home first in 1:58.3. The win was the third in nine starts this year for the three-year-old son of Well Said owned by trainer Mike Brealey of Campbellville, Ont. and Grayland Farm of Pugwash, N.S. Gassien returned to the winner’s circle following the next race thanks to Toughest Of All, who completed the mile in 1:54. John MacMillan trains the seven-year-old gelding by Camluck for Faith McMahon of Ottawa, Ont. The final race on the card was the $10,000 Preferred Pace, which saw Tony Kerwood and Calgary Seelster go gate-to-wire in 1:53.1 to defeat Tendtown and Jolt Of Whiskey. The win was the sixth in 24 starts this year for the six-year-old Modern Art son, owned by Glenview Livestock of Guelph, Ont. A great crowd was on hand once again at the Fraserville, Ont. oval with many families enjoying a myriad of activities for the young and young at heart. “I enjoyed Family Night very much, I especially liked the bouncy castle and the face painting. I had a cat painted on my face. And I got to ride in the starting car with Steve [starter Steve Skene],” said Callie Williams of Oshawa, Ont., granddaughter of Gord Brown, the track’s leading driver. Racing resumes at Kawartha Downs next Saturday night with a 7 p.m. post time. From the press box at Kawartha Downs  

It seems fitting that in a race honouring the late, great trotter Billyjojimbob, the winner was driven by a woman driver for a female trainer/owner. After all, Billyjojimbob was owned throughout his 15 years of life by Lori Ferguson, who was on hand Saturday night at Kawartha Downs to reminisce with old friends and newcomers about her champion trotter. “I was really happy to be here and share memories with so many people who remembered 'BJ' when he raced at Kawartha," said Ferguson. "The track did a great job with all of the memorabilia and video of his races. It was really touching to hear so many nice things about him. Billyjojimbob got his start at Kawartha Downs before moving on to become one of the most successful Ontario-sired trotters of all time. In 1992, he captured the prestigious Elitlopp in Sweden and is still the only Canadian-bred to have accomplished that. Inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1995, Billyjojimbob passed away in 2002 at the age of 15. Tonight Kawartha Downs honoured his memory with the $12,500 Billyjojimbob Memorial Trot as part of the track’s 42nd Anniversary celebrations. In the race, JB Oui Oui, driven by Riina Rekila, was eighth at the :58.4 half, came three-wide down the backside and romped home in 1:56.3 to win by six lengths over the sloppy racing surface. Michelangelo was second with Turbo Donato third. The win was the sixth in 10 starts this year for the six-year-old gelding by Daguet Rapide, who is owned and trained by Marie Ortolan Bar of Kentucky. When Lori Ferguson went out to make the presentation to the winner, she realized Rekila was on her own and quickly passed the flowers off and held the horse for the winner’s circle photo. It was a job she was quite familiar with having groomed Billyjojimbob throughout his career and seemed rather fitting this night. A great crowd was on hand again at the Peterborough, Ont. track despite the inclement weather. From the Kawartha Downs Press Box  

Gord Brown has been the leading driver at Kawartha Downs for several years now and tonight he showed why as he captured half of the 10 races on the card. He got the ball rolling in the second race, winning with Part Time Lady 1:58.3. Who Took that provided him with his next trip to the winner’s circle after a 1:59.3 effort. Brown then scored a natural hit trick winning the seventh, eighth and ninth races with No More Excuses, Wildcat Art and Fight Night. Brown is closing in on 4,000 lifetime wins with 3,919 on his summary to date. To view the rest of this story click here.

Horse people are advised that schooling races will commence next Wednesday, June 11 at Kawartha Downs with an 11 a.m. start. The first qualifying races of the season will begin Saturday, June 14 with an 11 a.m. post time. Subsequent qualifiers will be held prior to the start of live racing, at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday nights. Training is available at the track on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Live racing gets underway June 21 at 7 p.m. and runs to October 25 with the exception of September 20. From Kawartha Downs

The Ontario Racing Commission has released a Notice to the Industry announcing the decision to approve the schedule of 2014 race dates for Kawartha Downs and Dresden Raceway. This announcement brings the total of 2014 approved race dates to 939 across Quarter-Horse, Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeds. In addition the Director approved September 1 as a make-up date for Rideau Carleton Raceway (RCR). During the 2013-2014 period, RCR cancelled two race dates: January 14 and March 20, where no races were run due to unsafe track conditions. The Transfer Payment Agreement with government allows for one cancellation during the period of the contract, leaving one cancelled race date that RCR had to make-up. To read the rest of this story and view the race calendars click here.

If anyone knows Jonathan Dury, aside from always being busy, they know he is truly a student of harness racing. From his time working with his father, Barry Drury, at Mohawk Racetrack, (Campbellville, ON), during the summer to picking up on slight nuisances' at all possible moments is what has driven Jonathan to the level of achievement he is currently earning as one of the top drivers at Woodbine Racetrack. Jonathan would help his dad anytime he was not in school. When Jonathan was very young, his ideal dream job would have been to drive big trucks. Moving several years down the line, when Jonathan was in high school, he contemplated having a career in architecture but due to his on-track success, that venture has been put on hold. If what we have seen of Jonathan the past few years is any indication of what lies ahead, there's a strong feeling he may put a permanent hold on entering the field of architectural design. Jonathan's dad still trains horses and Jonathan noted his dad used to work for harness racing legend Ron Waples back at the old Meadowlands as an assistant trainer. Jonathan started out at Woodstock Raceway and the first horse he drove was "a trotter for Chris Christoforou Sr. "It was my first time start and it was with a trotter" says Jonathan. "I like driving both pacers and trotters and I have had success driving trotters. A lot of trotters are trickier to drive than pacers but I still love driving trotters a lot." Away from the track earlier in his career, Jonathan enjoyed playing golf in the summer and hockey during the winter. "I was playing hockey for a few years for fun, then I broke my arm and called it quits for that..." says Jonathan with a laugh. Jonathan worked for several high caliber stables, such as Anthony Macdonald who had a lot of trotters. "I really learned a lot about how to handle a trotter" says Jonathan. Anthony Montini and Casie Coleman are two other elite trainers Jonathan worked for. "You see different ways of doing things." Jonathan explains. "Anthony Montini is a really nice guy; he even let me drive Primetime Bobcat in one of his last career starts. I can't say I learned one thing from anybody, its things you pick up and expand on when you work for someone else." It's about growing and learning while remaining humble and approachable that can you a long way in every aspect of life. As he progressed Jonathan moved on to drive at Kawartha Downs, (located in Fraserville, ON), "I really dug Kawartha Downs, I love driving on the 5/8th mile track. I spent time last summer driving at one at Pocono Downs. Kawartha was a great experience because I got to drive a lot of the better horses that went down there." Jonathan explains. "I was driving all of Corey Johnson's horses at one point and I was driving a lot of Tommy Riley's horses plus I was driving whatever Casie (Coleman) brought down there." Jonathan notes he learned a lot from driving horses for top notch trainers. How did Jonathan get to the point of driving all of Corey Johnson's horses? Well, Jonathan says he didn't know Corey at first but kept seeing his name listed to drive Corey's horses. "I was having a lot of luck down there and I was one of the top guys there driving for Tommy Riley... then the entries came out one day and I was listed to drive on three of Corey's horses and it was all trotters and I won with all three of them." Take off indeed, what was set in motion at Kawartha Downs truly snowballed for Jonathan, to the point that he was able to make a seamless transition to Canada's biggest racetracks, Woodbine and Mohawk. Winning with Vegas Vacation was special to Jonathan. "I actually spent a lot of time training him when I was working for Casie. I got to qualify him and I won with him on his first lifetime start." It holds a special spot in Jonathan's heart, especially given what Vegas Vacation has accomplished. "Vegas is a wicked horse with a ton of potential, I think he is going to get bigger, stronger and better" according to Jonathan and it is safe to say everyone would agree with his opinion. I certainly do! Jonathan admits it can difficult to get good drives and yes, if it was that easy everyone would be number one on the leader board. "I just try to work hard to get me to where I am" says Jonathan. "Carmen Auciello gave me the opportunity to go down to the Poconos to drive his horses down there and it was a great experience. I think it really helped me to be to where I am at today. It's a different style of racing down (at the Poconos), it taught me a lot and I am able to use that to my advantage now." "I love the Poconos and the track; it's a beautiful facility and a fast track that also gets a lot of good horses down there." I hear the architecture aficionado in Jonathan's voice when he's describing the facility at Pocono Downs. Jonathan was at the Meadowlands for the past three weekends driving Corey Johnson's trotter Hldontghttoyurdrms in the Horse and Groom series and expresses how much the new facility at the Meadowlands has improved. Jonathan's focus is to keep driving and learning more and more so he can better not only himself, but also better the results for the trainers and owners. His approach is to zone in on a team goal, not as an individual. "That's the best thing you can do is know as much as you can" Jonathan says when it comes to learning about other horses. "Knowing your horse, and knowing the rest of the horses, you can find ways to beat them with what you know about them." Jonathan enjoys watching elite drivers like Tim Tetrick and Brian Sears, "they can get so much out of their horse, put them in all the right places." Jonathan says. "I try to learn things from everybody to better myself." "I am very content racing horses; it's something I love doing so how can I complain about something I love?" Jonathan admits. "Horse racing has been a big part of my life, and now it is my life." "I like aggressive horses racing wise, I feel I can keep them calm" says Jonathan. When he's not driving, Jonathan will go out to his dad's barn to give him a hand or in the summers past he would help with Casie Coleman's stable. "If I have time off, I take it easy for the most part; maybe play some golf in the summer. Really I try to get some rest so I am ready to go." Jonathan explains. "I haven't raced since I was at the Meadowlands on Saturday. I had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off and I was bored out of my mind having so many days off." In his time off, what keeps Jonathan mentally busy is music. "I'm a huge country music fan and also a huge Eminem fan. My favorite country group is Florida Georgia Line. I like all kinds of music depending on the mood I am in, but generally I listen to country." Jonathan says. As any avid music listener, Jonathan has his list of favorite concerts he has attended. The Jay Z and Eminem Home and Home tour concert, which took place in Detroit, is at the top of the list. A close second would be the concert he saw earlier this year that featured Jason Alden and Florida Georgia Line. This August, Jonathan will be rocking out to Linkin Park at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. A group he's been wanting to see live for quite some time. I posed the question to Jonathan, that if he could record a song with anyone or any group, he chose Florida Georgia Line. "Only because they look like they have a wicked time in their music videos." Jonathan says. A twist to his music curiosity is if Jonathan had the opportunity to sit down and talk with any music artist about their career, hands down it would be famed rapper, Eminem. "I've actually sat down and read through the meanings of all the lyrics to a bunch of his songs." Jonathan explains. "He's lived a very different life and gives you the courage not to give up.... He's come from a pretty rough family and battled against everything to get to where he is today. I read a documentary on him and he has boxes of papers with little groups of words scribbled on them that he just randomly has pop in his head." "And (Eminem) kept them in case he could ever use them in a song. It's really amazing what he can do with words and how each song has a meaning deep down inside the lyrics that you may not understand just listening to it." When it comes to interacting with fans, Jonathan truly enjoys the experience He's more than willing to sign autographs or give his whip away. One time at the Meadowlands, Jonathan was set to drive a couple of races and ended up giving away his whip to a fan without realizing he didn't have any more whips, as he only brought one with him to the track. Luckily Scott Zeron was there to help him out. So if you see Jonathan, don't be afraid to ask for an autograph as he is more than willing to oblige. "I wasn't expecting anyone to ask for my whip because at Woodbine the fans are so far away, you don't see them. It was shocking to see the fans up so close at different tracks. Once over a three night period at the Meadowlands, I won one race each night and gave away my whip after each race I won." How many sports can you account where the athletes and players involved give away game used items? Maybe baseball if you catch a foul ball, once in a blue moon an NFL football or a hockey puck, but in no other sport is this possible, only in harness racing where a fan can meet the people they cheer on and get an autograph on a nightly basis. by, Roderick Balgobin, Twitter: ScSupernova      

Longtime racing official Ken Middleton, Sr. passed away Thursday, March 6 at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. He was 67.   The resident of Bobcaygeon, Ontario, who began his career in the racing industry as a teenager in the mailroom at the Ontario Jockey Club, held a number of racing-related positions. He was the Toronto Sun's handicapper for racing from the Ontario Jockey Club before moving on to be the racing secretary at Kawartha Downs.   He later became the racing secretary and general manager at Elmira Raceway, and was a driving force behind the introduction of full-card simulcast wagering and the creation of the ever-popular Industry Day. He also worked as the racing secretary and general manager at Hanover Raceway before spending more than the last decade as the author of the Horseplayers' Journal for the Standardbred program at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetrack.   Middleton, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, is survived by his dear wife Judy (Lacey) Middleton; sons Keith (Tania) and Ken, Jr. (Stacey) of Cambridge, Ontario; and was the loving poppy of grandchildren Justin and Kendal. He was predeceased by his father (Ernie, Sr.), mother (Eleanor), brother (Ernie, Jr.) and sister (Jackie).   Those wishing to make online condolences to the family can do so by clicking here.  

TORONTO, February 26 - If you take a close look at the Woodbine drivers standings this season, there is a noticeable change near the top of the leader board. Twenty four-year-old Jonathan Drury is currently in second place, three wins behind three-time O'Brien Award winner Jody Jamieson. Drury, a resident of Rockwood, has certainly made the most of his drives this season accumulating 23 trips to the winners circle and $335,471 in purse earnings. Drury is also the regular pilot behind Hldontghttoyurdrms, who has captured the $34,000 Preferred Trot for a fourth week in a row for trainer Corey Johnson. "It's definitely horse power," Drury said explaining his stellar start in 2014. "When you get that kind of power to sit behind every night and get results, obviously your confidence goes up. So far this season, everything couldn't be better and I'm very fortunate." Drury was born into the harness racing business. His father, Barry, has operated a small stable for many years. Drury, who appears poised in his yellow and blue silks, a nod to his father's colours, is thankful for the valuable lessons he learned at a young age. "All the fundamentals of this sport came from my parents," Drury said. "My dad was stabled along the Mohawk backstretch for many years and my mother (Patricia) was in the barn too. When I wasn't in school I was in the barn or on the track." Drury also ventured out to other trainers before and after getting his trainer's license and he gained valuable experience while working with such trainers as O'Brien Award winner Casie Coleman, Tracey Brainard and Tony Montini. "That was a great learning curve for me," Drury said. "I got to see other methods of training and see the way they do it and run their operation. I've worked for Casie off-and-on for the past three years and got the opportunity to drive for her, which was amazing." After gaining his license in 2008, Drury began driving at Flamboro and Georgian Downs, but the move to Kawartha Downs a few years later and teaming up with top trainers in Corey Johnson and Carmen Auciello yielded great dividends for the young reinsman. "I was a regular driver there (Kawartha Downs) and they started using me and we developed a relationship and it just snowballed from there," said Drury. "Now they both have powerful stables at Woodbine and I'm just thankful to get the work." Perhaps the most valuable experience Drury gained was a summer spent at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania where he drove regularly for Ontario-based trainer Carmen Auciello, who sent a team of roughly 12 head. "Driving with a different bunch of guys at Pocono was a lot of fun," he said. "It's a little different style of driving and I learned so much in a short period of time. That was the most valuable experience I got, especially when I came back to Ontario." Drury was also a key player in the development of O'Brien Award winner Vegas Vacation. Drury "baby-raced" the son of Bettors Delight, before guiding the colt to victory in his first lifetime start at Mohawk Racetrack. "I was working for Casie at the time and would sit behind her two-year-olds on a regular basis," Drury said. "She asked me to baby-race him and teach him in his early stages and that was a lot of fun to sit behind that type of animal." Needless to say, Drury certainly has gained a lot of experience north and south of the border at a young age, and with a little patience and a lot of talent, it appears to be paying off nicely for the man they call JD. by Greg Gangle, for WEG

Since joining forces with trainer Corey Johnson, Hldontghttoyurdrms has been ultra-productive and incredibly fast. His performance in Monday’s $34,000 Preferred Trot at Woodbine Racetrack was no exception considering he became Canada’s fastest trotter of the season thanks to a 1:53 score. Hldontghttoyurdrms, who was sent off as the 3-5 favourite in the nine-horse affair, got away third while Cool Guy sprinted to the lead and supplied an opening quarter clocked in :26.4. Jonathan Drury right-lined the favourite going into the backstretch, and they cleared to the lead shortly past the mid-way point in :56.1. Nowucit Nowudont came first-over and pressed Hldontghttoyurdrms to the three-quarter pole in 1:24.4, but the leader shrugged off that challenge and drew clear to win by 1-1/2 lengths over a late-closing Catch The Dream. Nowucit Nowudont settled for third. Hldontghttoyurdrms, a five-year-old son of Muscles Yankee-Sweet Gabriella, now boasts a 2-0-0 record from three trips to the track this season. The 12-time winner, who is owned by Frank Spagnolo, Frank Schimizzi and Saverio Spagnolo, bumped his lifetime earnings to $153,615 with the victory. Steve Byron, who was sidelined from the racetrack since last May, captured his first victory since his layoff on Monday evening at Woodbine. The 51-year-old guided Andreios Kardia to an off-the-pace victory for trainer James Madill in the opening dash on the 12-race card The three-year-old son of Badlands Hanover paced in 1:55.1 and paid $4.10 to win. Byron, a resident of Thornton, Ontario, suffered a fractured left knee and ligament damage in a qualifying race at Kawartha Downs on May 20, 2013. Reprinted from StandardbredCanada and WEG

TORONTO, February 3 - Harness racing driver Steve Byron, who was sidelined from the racetrack since last May, captured his first victory since his layoff on Monday evening at Woodbine. The 51-year-old guided Andreios Kardia to an off-the-pace victory for trainer James Madill in the opening dash on the 12-race programme in 1:55.1. The three-year-old son of Badlands Hanover paid $4.10 to win as the even-money favourite. Byron, a Thornton resident, suffered a fractured left knee and ligament damage in a qualifying race at Kawartha Downs on May 20, 2013. by Greg Gangle for WEG  

Even though all harness racing dates have been cancelled at Kawartha Downs for 2014, some local officials are saying there’s still a chance racing will carry on next year. “By all means, it’s not over,” said Steve Brackenridge, the past president of the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture and a supporter of local harness racing. “I wouldn’t say there’s a 100% chance there will be racing next year - but I’d say there’s a much better chance than people think today,” he said. News broke Friday that Kawartha Downs Ltd. had advised the Ontario Racing Commission that it would not be applying for a 2014 licence to operate a racetrack. That effectively cancelled all KD’s race dates for 2014. But Brackenridge says that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be harness racing next year at the track in Fraserville, southwest of Peterborough. While track owner Skip Ambrose isn’t expected to apply to operate the races, Brackenridge said a not-for-profit agency could still come forward and do the job. Having a not-for-profit operate the races was an idea proposed by the province last year following some big changes to the way harness racing operates in Ontario. First Queen’s Park cancelled its $345-million-a-year slots at racetracks program as part of an effort to reduce the deficit. But when Premier Kathleen Wynne replaced Dalton McGuinty, the Liberals decided instead to offer $80 million a year for harness racing, with most of it going to a handful of the province's larger tracks. Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal wasn’t available for comment Monday night. When the decision to end the program to fund harness racing was first made, he’d been critical of the government over it. Brackenridge doesn’t know of any potential investors or not-for-profit groups that might step up and operate the racing. But he said the desire is strong among horsemen and fans to keep it up, and potential investors could still come forward. A new operator would have to lease the track and organize the races. Brackenridge said such a group would have until Febr. 15 to apply to the province to do so. Just don’t expect his group - the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture - to do it. Brackenridge said the farming federation would do whatever it could to make a connection between a prospective new race operator, Kawartha Downs and the provincial government - but it won’t organize the races. The federation works on general issues of concern to the farming community, he says. Since several horsemen belong to the federation, he said they wanted to help the process along. Skip Ambrose, the owner of Kawartha Downs, wasn’t available for comment Monday night. Elmer Buchanan, chairman of the Ontario Racing Commission and a farmer in Havelock, said it’s still possible for a not-for-profit group to come and organize the races. But they’d have to “get their act together and apply” soon, he said. And they must not be daunted if it takes time and patience to take over organizing the races. “It’s a rigorous process to get a new licence,” he said. by Joelle kovach, reprinted with permission by

The Director of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) today announced the decision on a number of additional applications seeking variances to the assigned dates for 2014. In addition to previous applications from Woodbine Entertainment Group for Woodbine Standardbred, Western Fair Association and Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC) for Flamboro, dealt with by the Director in previous notices, applications to vary race dates were received from Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Ltd. and GCGC for Georgian Downs. The Director confirms and approves the schedule of race dates for the 1st quarter of 2014 as follows:   Number of Race Dates approved for 1st Quarter   Woodbine Racetrack 37 Premier Cards Western Fair 38 Signature Cards  Flamboro Downs 52 Signature Cards Georgian Downs 0 Signature Cards (Approved to cancel 4 race date in early January) Rideau Carleton 14 Signature Cards (Approved for Sundays, January 12 through March 30, adding Thursdays starting March 20)   Kawartha Downs Limited has advised the ORC that it will not be applying for a 2014 Licence to Operate a Racetrack. Therefore all race dates approved for Kawartha Downs have been cancelled. Additionally, as a result, the 2014 Home Market Areas for Telephone Account Betting formerly approved for Kawartha have been conditionally approved for Woodbine Racetrack, with all net revenues to be held in trust.   Winrac Development Inc. did not submit a complete application for licence and therefore, all race dates approved for Dresden Raceway have been cancelled. Additionally, as a result, the 2014 Home Market Areas for Telephone Account Betting formerly approved for Dresden Raceway have been conditionally approved for Woodbine Racetrack, with all net revenues to be held in trust. Any teletheatres licences currently approved under Dresden Raceway’s 2013 Licence to Operate a Racetrack have not been issued for 2014.   In accordance with Policy Directive 3-2007, all other race date calendars are approved based on previous approvals, but are subject to change where a racetrack operator or other interested party makes an application to vary the approved dates, which will be considered based on the strengths of the business plans submitted and the industry funding available.   The Director is moving forward to implement the components of the 5 year Horse Racing Partnership (HRP) Plan, as recommended by the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel in its final report of October 2013. As part of that implementation, the Director is currently considering options related to a single operator of teletheatres and telephone account betting in the province, as recommended in the HRP. Decisions regarding implementation will be communicated in the coming weeks to ensure that such changes will come into effect April 1, 2014.  

TORONTO, December 18 - At the age of 10, Kindly Poet is hard not to consider the ultimate war horse on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit. The veteran pacer has been a star at the Rexdale oval and has gone on to earn 44 career victories and is a mere $7,640 shy of surpassing $1 million in career earnings. On top of that great accomplishment, the talented pacer etched a new 1:49.4 career best this season at age 10. Kindly Poet will look to become harness racing's newest millionaire with a victory in Saturday's sixth race at Woodbine. Sylvain Filion will guide veteran from post six in the $16,000 condition event. Trained throughout his career by Murray Brethour, who also owns a piece with Scarff Legacy Stables, Donald Varcoe and Daniel Sarafian, Kindly Poet has raced 214 career starts with all but 12 of them on the WEG Circuit (Woodbine & Mohawk). Not bad for a horse that was never supposed to set hoof on the racetrack. "He had a broken shoulder as a weanling and the veterinarian said that he would never race," Brethour, a resident of Sunderland, recalled. "As a yearling, we just broke him and turned him out. We brought him in the barn at two, but only started to come around at three. To this day he still has a fairly large bump on his shoulder, but he races with it." Kindly Poet quickly overcame all odds and made his qualifying debut on March 6, 2006 at Kawartha Downs. The result was a victory in 2:00.1 with Brethour in the bike. "At the time, I was just happy he made it," Brethour said, with a chuckle. "He gradually got better and better and climbed the ladder." Kindly Poet began his racing career two weeks later at Georgian Downs with a third place finish before finishing second in the next three dashes. He won his first race when he shipped into Woodbine and got up in time in 1:53.4 with Hall of Fame driver Steve Condren in the bike. Since then, Kindly Poet has made 40 more trips to the winner's circle either at Woodbine or Mohawk with multiple victories at the Open/Preferred level. "He's just tough and has a lot of class to him," Brethour said. "At home, he knows he is king. He's very set in his ways and knows when it's time to race. When he makes the type of money he does, he can do whatever he wants," Brethour said, with a laugh. Looking back on Kindy Poet's career, he has certainly overcome all odds and provided many thrills for Brethour. "He just loves to win and did it all the hard way," he said. "His largest payday was winning the Cam Fella final back in 2007 when the purse was $67,000. "He's just a warhorse and there's really no better way to describe him," Brethour continued. "He's raced pretty much his entire career at Woodbine or Mohawk and was your typical Saturday night horse. As a trainer, you can't ask much more than that." Randy Waples, who was a frequent pilot behind Kindly Poet, agrees with Brethour. "He was just a gentleman to drive," Waples said. "He was very accommodating to drive. He had a big motor, terrific manners and an absolute pleasure to drive. He left it all on the racetrack every night and always put forth a terrific effort." As for the future of Kindly Poet, he isn't going too far from home. "He'll race at Woodbine and Mohawk until he's no longer competitive," Brethour said. "Once he's done racing, he'll have a home for life on the farm. My daughter rides him so he's certainly a pet and part of the family." It's been hard work, good fortune and a personal touch from his trainer that has certainly paid off for Kindly Poet. No one can ask for more than that. by Greg Gangle for WEG

LONDON, ON — After missing the Grassroots Championship by just nine points, two-year-old pacer Brodys Scrapper will be looking to capitalize on his second opportunity at a post season pay cheque in Tuesday’s Grassroots Consolation at The Raceway at Western Fair District. Through his six regular season Grassroots starts Brodys Scrapper posted one win, one third, two fourths and two fifths for 88 points and thirteenth spot in the point standings — the top 10 point earners advanced to the Sept. 21 Championship. The Mach Three son’s 1:56.1 personal best came in the Aug. 24 Grassroots event at Kawartha Downs and trainer Bud Sinclair of Stratford, ON is hoping the gelding is ready to match that effort from Post 2 in Tuesday’s tenth race. “He trained super the other day. Hopefully he’s fresh and ready to go,” says Sinclair, who shares ownership of the gelding with his wife Lindsey Sinclair and Kenneth Bryant of Dorchester, ON. The Sinclairs bred and raised Brodys Scrapper, who is out of their $192,922 winning mare Witness To Fame, and the trainer says the gelding is very much like his mother, who was a Grassroots winner at both two and three. “Everything off that mare, they want to kill you when you start with them,” he says ruefully. “To train him down was a nightmare. “It was real hard to get him to focus on stuff,” Sinclair continues. “I raced him in a bunch of maidens just to braven him up and he finally figured it out. He has tons and tons of speed; it’s just the mental part, he’s very tough on himself.” Brodys Scrapper made his racing debut in the Grassroots season opener at Mohawk Racetrack on June 27 and has made eight more starts, scoring four wins, one third and $17,986 for his owners. After Tuesday’s Consolation, the gelding will wrap up his season in the Ontario Sired Autumn Series at Woodbine Racetrack. “He’s got four more starts if he makes the final of the Autumn Series,” notes Sinclair. “He’ll have more starts than we’d really like, but the way the industry is right now you don’t want to pass up an opportunity to make money.” The trainer is hoping a recent alteration to the gelding’s equipment will help Brodys Scrapper earn a pay cheque in the $20,000 Grassroots Consolation on Tuesday. In the last regular season Grassroots event, on Sept. 12 at Mohawk Racetrack, driver Sylvain Filion moved the gelding early and was unable to reapply the brakes once Brodys Scrapper reached the front. “Once you start him up he doesn’t know ‘Whoa’ again,” explains Sinclair. “So I’ve changed his rigging a little bit this time.” With a few equipment changes and a little maturity, Sinclair is also hoping Brodys Scrapper can follow in his mother’s footsteps and make a successful return to the Ontario Sires Stakes program as a three-year-old. “I think next year he’s got a great future ahead of him,” says the trainer. “I hope he can step up a level, I know the speed is there, he just has to get the mental part.” Among the challengers Brodys Scrapper will face in his last freshman Ontario Sires Stakes battle are two colts who finished ahead of him in the point standings. Major Homer finished in eighth spot and gets Post 6, while eleventh ranked Allstar Seelster will benefit from Post 1. The two-year-old Grassroots Consolations will be featured in Races 1 through 6, 9 and 10; with the first $20,000 contest parading onto The Raceway at 4:05 pm. Fans will have an opportunity to wager on a special $1,000 Pick 8 on the eight Grassroots Consolations. For complete entries please go to by Sandra Snyder for the Ontario Sire Stakes        

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