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Racinos provide slots gaming for adult customers, an offering which can be difficult to balance with the family/youth-oriented sport of harness racing when both take place at the same venue. In recent years, some tracks with on-site gaming have restricted people under the legal gambling age from entering grandstands, a decision Brian Tropea says stems from the presence of the machines: "It really doesn't have anything to do with banning them from a racetrack--it's banning them from a casino." This year, in which COVID-19 has seriously impacted the number of people that can be safely allowed to attend live racing at certain tracks, the question of how to provide young families and fans with a chance to watch fall and winter races is on hold. But the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) general manager considers the issue essential for racino operators and those who oversee the sport to address. He doesn't view an outdoor observation "hut" as an acceptable way to shelter kids and families when racino tracks re-open to the public. "How do you replace the grandstand, where you can sit in the clubhouse and overlook the finish line, and build a facility somewhere down in the first turn for people to watch races?" he asks. Tropea says that smaller tracks around Ontario did an impressive job of safely hosting summer races with on-track audiences. He mentions Dredsen Raceway, Hanover Raceway, Leamington Raceway, and Kawartha Downs as examples of how all-age groups stayed connected to the sport, even during the pandemic. "They did it on a reservation basis, first come, first served," he explains. "If you had a husband and a wife and two kids, that was four spots. Those tracks didn't say you have to be of legal betting age to be here," even with a limited number of spots for spectators available on race days. Why the emphasis on keeping young people and families engaged in harness racing? "Unless you can expose people to the live product, they're never going to become a customer of betting horse races. One hundred percent, that's the value," he says. "You can put horse races on in a bar, and people might decide to play a couple of races on a betting terminal at the bar, while they have a few beers or something. But they certainly aren't going to become loyal fans of the sport based on that experience." While no longer active, OHHA's Hands On Horse program helped promote Standardbreds and racing to a near-limitless audience. "It all starts with the live experience, and that was where the Hands On Horses program was so valuable, I believe, because we gave people an experience they won't forget," shares the OHHA GM.   "I carried one-year-old kids around the racetrack, and I had 95-year-old men and women on the cart. What we did is we created a lifetime memory, similar to someone who's a hockey fan being allowed to go and skate on the ice with the Maple Leafs. I always said to people, it's one thing to get a casual fan to the racetrack, and they may enjoy the races while they're there and make a few bets while having a hotdog and a drink. But if you can get them to actually touch a horse, interact with the horse..." The lifelong horseman names another Ontario track where lasting impressions were made with Hands On Horses: "Western Fair was a great situation for us. The grandstand was right beside where we would keep the horses in between the races, so we would get the next group of people that were going out for a [jog cart] ride and bring them back over. We'd have 15 minutes in between races to get those people suited up with their helmet and stuff, pet the horses, take selfies, and really spend 15 intimate minutes with somebody who understands the industry, in a very comfortable setting." Up to 65-70 participants would commonly sign up for what has become an increasingly-rare opportunity, says Tropea.   "I felt so privileged to share with people that feeling of how I felt when I first sat in a jog cart, with the thousands of people I've had a chance to share that with over the years." He grew up in racing, and would ride along with his dad until he was old enough to jog a horse on his own, "at six or seven years old." Harness racing's future depends on the sport's lesser-known venues, where young people can build interest and skills with horses, and in racing media roles like publicity and racecalling. "With the smaller racetracks, to me, they're an integral part of any racing jurisdiction," notes Tropea.   "The fair circuit in Ohio is a great example. Where is the next generation of trainers and drivers and potential owners going to come from, if we lose them? [...] The vast majority of our participants are second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-generation horsepeople. It's not an industry that's easily infiltrated. If I'm a young kid and I decide that I want to be a driver, but when I start out, I have no connections to the industry, how do I go about doing that?" Programs like those offered by Hands On Horses and the Harness Horse Youth Foundation serve an essential role, and so do the small tracks where handle doesn't necessarily reflect the racing product's true value.   Tropea says "most of the smaller racetracks in Ontario go out of their way" to accomodate youth and special events like Childcan's "Horsin' Around for Cancer" fundraising barbeque for families affected by childhood cancer, held in the recent past at Clinton Raceway. He also shares a particularly moving message he received about one former Hands On Horses participant, showing the lasting impact that a small but welcoming track can have on the lives of at-risk youth:   "Hi Brian, I just wanted to send along a little conversation I had with one of the young grooms at Hanover Raceway a few weeks ago. He was only about 16 years old and was volunteering his services paddocking a couple of horses in Hanover. I don't remember his name, but he was a great kid. I asked how he liked being around the horses and how he got into it. What he said, I was not prepared for and really took me back.   He began to tell me he was in Clinton about three years ago, and he and a few of the friends he hung with were getting into some trouble and decided to go to the track and cause a stir over there. He said at [age] 13, his parents were alcoholics and didn't care what he was doing. He was at the track and decided to go for a ride on the jogger with some guy named Brian.   As he trotted around, he thought he was going to be a bit of hotdog and show off a bit with his friends watching. He said this Brian guy explained to him the racehorse is a powerful animal and needs to be respected. He was instantly drawn to the power this horse was able to exude and was sort of intimidated. As he jogged around, this Brian guy explained to him how many kids get involved in racing and how he could. As he got off the jogger and returned to his friends, he said it was those words Brian said that sort of changed him that day. He told his friends to leave the track and they did, and they went on to cause problems somewhere else. He went home.   The next day, he went to Clinton [Raceway] and immediately started volunteering with a few of the trainers there. A month or two later, his parents moved to outside Hanover. He still, to this day, hitchhikes into town on race nights and helps paddock. He has had a few part-time jobs with local trainers, and beams when he says he doesn't get into trouble like he used to. His grades have improved and he always has a bit of pocket cash. He said he owes a lot to that guy named Brian."   by Melissa Keith, for the USHWA Youth Membership Committee                

TORONTO, March 4, 2019 /CNW/ - Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Union (OPSEU), is concerned with the behaviour of Ontario Racing and the not-for-profit Woodbine Entertainment Group, who have been entrusted by the Ontario Liberals to manage nearly $2 billion dollars over twenty years that is supposed to support horse racing in rural Ontario. Recently, Woodbine Entertainment Group and Ontario Racing gave the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) just sixty days notice that the organization will no longer be responsible for managing the health, insurance and retirement benefits of standardbred horsepeople in Ontario. Instead, Ontario Racing has mandated that the Woodbine-created Central Ontario Standardbred Association, which presently only represents horsepeople at Woodbine Mohawk Park, will now be responsible for all standardbred horsepeople in Ontario. This decision was made without a democratic vote by horsepeople or any consultations on the topic. OHHA was founded in 1962 and has passionately represented the interests of standardbred horsepeople across the province since, including in negotiations with racetracks and all levels of government. OHHA's work has sustained tens of thousands of agricultural jobs for a diverse set of men and women across rural Ontario that support horse racing, and encouraged billions to be reinvested in rural communities.  "Horsepeople in Ontario rely on the Ontario Harness Horse Association to fight for the interests of their industry and negotiate to protect the wellbeing of standardbred horsepeople across the province. What Woodbine Entertainment Group and Ontario Racing are doing is no different than union busting, and they need to be stopped," said Kent Baker, longtime owner, trainer, and breeder in Ontario. "OHHA fights for the interests of the men and women who work hard each and every day across this province to support horse racing. Many of these individuals are excellent at what they do, but lack easily transferable employment skills. They will be the casualties of a Woodbine centric horse racing industry." "The government's first mistake was entrusting Woodbine Entertainment Group, an organization whose handling of funds meant to support horse racing have long been the subject of intense scrutiny by media and government, to look after the interests of all horse racing money for the government. They probably could not have come up with a less responsible party in the industry to manage those funds if they had tried", said Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU. "This is worse than asking the fox to watch the hen house. The previous government forced the hens to move in with this fox. Doug Ford has claimed to care about rural Ontario, well this is his chance to prove it," Thomas added. OPSEU is joining OHHA's call for Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment Group to withdraw their April 1, 2019 direction and are asking the provincial government to intervene if Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment Group won't do the right thing. SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) For further information: Lindsay Macaulay, The Broadview Team, 647-748-3300 NEWS PROVIDED BY Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

A $10-million investment to bring year-round harness racing to Mohawk Racetrack has been met with mixed emotions in the local standardbred community. This according to Ontario Harness Horse Association general manager Brian Tropea. “I think the feeling’s split. On the one hand there’s the convenience of travel, but what does it mean when we’ll have no presence at the largest market in Canada (Woodbine),” he told the Champion, responding to Tuesday’s announcement of the major upgrades set for the Campbellville track, where harness racing will be held exclusively following construction that’s scheduled to be complete by next spring. “I think it’ll be detrimental to the growth of the industry.” Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson sees things differently. “This has been well thought out for 24 to 30 months and we’re extremely comfortable with our decision. Milton’s the fastest-growing community in Canada. The population increase is off the chart,” he said, adding that 75 per cent of wagering is now done online. “We’ve done our homework. Anyone with concerns about the Toronto market don’t have access to our numbers.” Lawson said the ‘critical threshold’ in the plan was the OLG’s commitment to providing a new gaming partner at Mohawk for the next 21 years. “That was a game changer for us.” Said seasoned local trainer Ben Wallace, “I’ll miss being in the central core of Toronto, but I think this is a plus for everyone. I just hope the commitment is as flamboyant as it could be.” On Tuesday, Woodbine Entertainment announced plans to winterize the grandstand, paddock and maintenance facilities at Mohawk. However, “Investment in the Milton track is not limited to the construction projects and plant upgrades,” said Woodbine Entertainment in a release. The company also unveiled a new corporate branding with plans to unify its racetracks under one brand, Woodine. “The Woodbine track will retain its name while Mohawk will become Woodbine at Mohawk Park, set to be implemented when harness racing returns to the site full-time in May 2018,” said the company. While Milton-area horse people will no doubt see a financial benefit in terms of travel and shipping expenses once year-round racing begins at a soon-to-be-winterized Mohawk, Wallace said those costs are nothing compared to what his New York-based colleagues deal with. “Try going from south New Jersey to somewhere like Yonkers. We’re in horse paradise here.” Tropea describes Mohawk as the superior facility for standardbred racing — with fans much closer to the action. However, he questioned if people will be lining the fence in the winter, even with the upgrades planned. He suggested the announcement has more to do with benefiting the thoroughbred industry at Woodbine, where a full casino could be built and supporting transit put in place — further bolstering the Toronto track as the premiere destination in Ontario. Tropea also expressed concerns about changes to racing’s revenue sharing agreement — with a split of the breeds. Currently Mohawk offers live racing from April to October, with its biggest card — the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup, set for tonight (Saturday). by Steve LeBlanc Reprinted with permission of the Inside Halton site

ELORA, ON - Since its inception in 1990, the Industry Day celebration at Grand River Raceway has been enthusiastically supported by the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA). In the early days, the harness racing organization hosted the Backstretch Olympic Games with such epic events as water-pail and bandage-rolling contests. More recently, OHHA created the Best In Show Awards, providing cash prizes to the caretakers of horses racing on the Industry Day card. For the event's 26th edition on August 1, OHHA is providing $1,500 in total prizes - $100 to the top five in each of the following categories: Best Of Show Head-To-Toe; Horse & Groom; Above & Beyond (braids, sparkles, etc.). Judges for the Best In Show will circulate throughout the paddock on Industry Day. The winners will be announced on the track's website and social media later that evening. Post time for Industry Day on August 1 is 1:30 p.m. Festivities and the broadcast kick-off at 1:00. Complete event details are available at Event hashtag: #industryday26 Entries for the 11-race card: Kelly Spencer

Local father-son harness racing duo Gregg and Doug McNair captured their third Battle Of Waterloo victory during the 25th anniversary edition of Grand River Raceway's Industry Day celebration on August 3. The Guelph, ON residents won the race in 2008 with Trail Boss and again in 2013 with Three Of Clubs. A winner in his elimination division one week ago, Magnum J went off at odds of 3-1 leaving from post seven in the $227,397 final. Doug McNair, 25, guided the two-year-old pacer straight to the front of the nine-horse field and never looked back, maintaining the lead in the stretch against a fast-closing Stonebridge Beach with driver Stephane Pouliot. Magnum J finished a half-length the best in 1:55.3. Gregg McNair purchased Magnum J for $10,000 from last year's Forest City Yearling Sale for co-owners Tony Lawrence and William Brown. The black gelding's share of the 18th annual Battle Of Waterloo brings his career bankroll to $126,799. The McNairs also nailed back-to-back wins in races two and three of the 11-race card. Solar Sister was the betting favourite heading into the first of two $105,000 Gold Series divisions of the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS). Doug McNair dominated gate-to-wire, scoring the sophomore pacing filly's sixth win from nine season starts. The victory pushes her career bankroll to $540,190 for owners David Willmot and Clay Harland Horner. The 1:53.2 clocking set a new Canadian season's record and was just one-fifth of a second off the track record. Team McNair was back to the winners circle in the next dash for the Battle Of The Belles Consolation. Stonebridge Pearl was sixth in last week's elimination division but scored handily in today's $15,000 contest. The Mach Three filly's maiden win clocked in at 1:57.3 for Gregg McNair who co-owns with Terry & Jake Davidson. In the Battle Of Belles final, trainer David Menary and driver Jody Jamieson teamed up for their second stakes win. The pair won the 2012 edition with Macharoundtheclock. This year's $141,246 final was all Free Show as she scored her second career win after last week's victory in the eliminations. Jamieson finished a length the best in 1:56.3 for Hutt Racing Stable, who paid just $14,000 for the Badlands Hanover filly as a yearling. She has now earned $110,623 in five career starts. The second OSS Gold Series division of the day was won by Ms Mac N Cheese. Driver Sylvain Filion fired the Badlands Hanover filly up the passing lane to win by a length over Sports Chic in 1:55.3. Richard Moreau trains Ms Mac N Cheese for David Ratchford. This is her fifth win in eight season starts. On the lighter side, driver James MacDonald stole the half-time show with an incredible repeat performance in the Industry Day Drivers' Edition of the Bouncy Pony Stakes. The Guelph, ON reinsman has won the event for the past five consecutive years. Fellow drivers Ryan Holliday, Tyler Moore and Travis Henry put up a good fight, but simply could not stack up against the unstoppable MacDonald. "Everyone's got their thing," said MacDonald in a post-race interview. "Gretzky had hockey and I've got the bounce." The Best In Show competition sponsored by the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) awarded $1,500 to the caretakers of horses racing on the Industry Day card. Fifteen prizes of $100 were presented to the top five in each of the following categories: Best Of Show Head-To-Toe; Horse & Groom; Above & Beyond (braids, sparkles, etc.). The winners were: Sharleen MacDonald, Brandy Jamieson, Marylou Gingras, Nancy O'Hagan, Alexis Hebert, Ethan Gagnon, Laura Ireland, Leanne Murphy, Kellie Browne, J. Richards, Rick Welsh, Kelley McNiven, Gabriella Sasso, Jeff Williams, and Patty Drury. A crowd of approximately 5,000 people wagered $93,110 on-track. The total handle was $312,548.  Battle Of The Belles race video Battle Of Waterloo video  Bouncy Pony Stakes race video Kelly Spencer

ELORA, ON - Since its inception in 1990, the Industry Day celebration at Grand River Raceway has been enthusiastically supported by the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA). In the early days, the organization hosted the Backstretch Olympic Games with such epic events as water-pail and bandage-rolling contests. More recently, OHHA hosted the Best In Show Awards, providing $500 in cash prizes to the caretakers of horses racing on the Industry Day card. For the event's 25th anniversary celebration on August 3, OHHA is tripling its caretaker rewards, providing $1500 in total prizes - $100 to the top five in each of the following categories: Best Of Show Head-To-Toe; Horse & Groom; Above & Beyond (braids, sparkles, etc.). "The caretakers of racehorses are some of the hardest working people in this business," says driver and OHHA Director Jody Jamieson. "Their contributions are so vast and so ingrained into the culture of the sport. During an event like this - a 25th anniversary celebration of harness racing - we should ensure the caretakers get the recognition they deserve." Judges for the Best In Show will circulate throughout the paddock on Industry Day. The winners will be announced on the track's website later that evening. Post time for Industry Day on August 3 is 1:30 p.m. Festivities and the broadcast kick-off at 1:00. Complete event details are available at Event hashtag: #industryday25 Kelly Spencer

The double-seated jog carts of the Hands On Horses Program racked up a ton of miles during the 2014 season thanks to a variety of events at racetracks and functions across the province. Thrill seekers literally lined up when given the opportunity to jog a horse in those carts in what turned out to be a record-breaking year for the program. Ten racetracks hosted a total of 23 'Wanna Drive' events, with more than 1,200 fans hopping in the jog cart for a tour of some of Ontario's popular ovals. The program, which is administered by the Ontario Harness Horse Association and funded through the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction funds allocated to the Ontario horse people, also branched out beyond race nights at the tracks thanks to a variety of special events which included a radio broadcast from a retirement community, an equestrian parade down the main street of Elora, a corporate team building event, a youth day camp, Fall Fairs and an open house at Grand River Raceway. "We had terrific turnouts at each of the events this season, and the reaction from the riders was awesome," said Stacey Reinsma, program administrator for the Hands On Horses Program. "Children, parents, grandparents - they all showed up through rain or shine to take their turn at the lines." "One of the best parts were all of the inquiries from people asking where the next event was going to be so they could return and bring more of their friends and family members," added Reinsma. "With so many of the tracks coming on board to host events and working with us to establish a schedule it was easy to direct people to those upcoming events. It's a great way to expose new fans to the excitement of horse racing." "It is so enjoyable to share in that unbridled joy and excitement that an individual experiences the first time that they sit behind a racehorse", stated Ontario Harness Horse Association General Manager Brian Tropea. "This program provides an extremely positive memory of the racetrack and hopefully encourages those fans to make return visits to the tracks." Thousands of photographs were taken over the course of the season at the 'Wanna Drive' events, and those photos were extremely popular. Many participants took their own mobile phone photos and shared those on their social media pages. "We handed out business cards to direct fans to our social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook so they could retrieve their photos to share with their friends and family members," said Reinsma. "It was another great way to create added exposure to the program and to the province's racetracks. In addition to the word of mouth advertising that is stimulated through this experience we were able to offer another platform for the participants to share their unique opportunity. "One family that visited Flamboro Downs for an event did so because of a request from their son," added Reinsma. "He had been to an earlier event, and wanted the chance to do it again. His mom and dad were quick to honour the request and they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It's important to make a lasting impression to visitors, and it's equally important to be able to tell them when and where our upcoming events will be. The management and staff of the racetracks we visited last season did a great job in getting the word out, and we can't thank all of the volunteers enough for all of the hard work they did in ensuring our guests had a great experience." The Hands on Horses Program is looking forward to 2015. 'Wanna Drive' events have already been scheduled for January 31st, February 21st and March 21st at 6:00PM at Flamboro Downs. Visit our website for more information and to view pictures of the events. Stacey Reinsma

The Ontario Harness Horse Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014 OHHA scholarships. For the ninth year in a row, OHHA is awarding scholarships to children of active, participating OHHA members that have entered their first year of full-time undergraduate studies leading to a first post-secondary certificate or diploma. This year’s recipient of the $2,500 university scholarship is Daniel Moffat (Dresden), who is pursuing a B.Sc.N. (Honours) Degree in Nursing at the University of Windsor. Recipients of the $1,500 college scholarships are Joshua Core (Sarnia), who was admitted to the Paramedic Program at Lambton College in Sarnia and Richard Moffat (London), who is attending the General Arts and Science Program at Fanshawe College in London. One of the criteria to be awarded a scholarship is proven academic achievement and these three candidates realized outstanding results during their secondary education. OHHA thanks all students who applied for a scholarship and wishes them the very best of luck with their studies and for the future! From the Ontario Harness Horse Association

Anthony Haughan, an Ireland native, has a sure fire trifecta in his life; family, harness racing and Liverpool soccer. Whatever you do, never mention that you're a fan of Manchester United to Anthony! If you do, get ready for some good natured ribbing! In the late 90's, Anthony decided to leave Ireland before the winter season to try his hand in harness racing in Canada. "In Ireland, there is no racing during the winter time so I had to come to Canada to get my racing fix" admits Anthony. Shortly thereafter, Anthony went back home to Ireland however Canada must have had a special place in Anthony's heart as he returned to Canada in 2000. What was supposed to be a stay of only a few months turned out to be Anthony staying for good. Good turned to become great as Anthony met Meg (who trains as well), his partner. Anthony and Meg have a young son named Cian, (pronounced: Cane), who enjoys going to the race track to watch his dad in action. "Cian likes going to the barn and watching the horses. He likes coming to the races, though a little too often" says Anthony. "During the summer, Cian plays soccer so I do what I can to make sure I can watch him play." Anthony says. "Meg and I, we both go and watch him." Looking back over the years since coming to Canada, Anthony feels blessed to have made this transition for his career. "Making a living here doing what I love has been great." Anthony continues, "Not many people get to do a job they love, I'm very fortunate." "To come here, coming from Dublin and to have as many wins that I have, it's special." Anthony says, "I am grateful to everyone who has given me an opportunity." Aside from racing, training and family, Anthony is a director for the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA). "Guys come to me for help with Judge's infractions" says Anthony. "I will go and talk to the judges on their behalf or go in with them when they speak to the judge to support them. I like being involved." "I'm a horseman, so I don't look out for just myself. I look out for all the horsemen". Anthony states. Anthony is very honest about how he's handled his role with OHHA. "The older I've gotten, the better I am with handling situations. I think in the past I may have gone about it in the wrong way" Anthony continues, "As you get older and do a little more, you realize there's better ways to go about it." How did Anthony get involved with OHHA? "I was approached and asked if I would be interested in becoming a director, which I was. I was voted in by the directors" Anthony says. "You have to be available as much as you can" says Anthony. The biggest take away is Anthony does his best to help fellow horsemen; he takes pride in being there for others, offering advice or helping in any way possible. At any workplace whether it be an office, factory or paddock, the essential part of enjoying what you do is having a light atmosphere with good personalities. So when it comes to having a laugh on race night, Anthony is game. "Sometimes we try to have fun with a guy if he is having a rough night. You spend so much time with drivers; it's like being on a football or hockey team." Anthony adds, "A lot of times you travel together and are in the locker room together yet we compete against one another. There's a fine line but I am friendly with everyone." Knowing if a problem arises and you need help, it's good to know you're not alone. People like Anthony help reassure fellow horsemen that this is a team sport. A family. by Roderick Balgobin, for 

Stoney Durkin ($10.90) established a new track record at Leamington Raceway on Sunday, pacing the mile in 1:57.2. Mark Williams sent the five-year-old Whosurboy gelding to the front and made every post a winning one, hitting the half in :58.2 and pacing home in :59 seconds flat. Breeder Larry Fitzsimmons trains and shares ownership of Stoney Durkin with William Durkin of Sparta, Ont. The track record was overshadowed by the performance of Donnie Rankin, who won six of the 10 races on the afternoon card. Rankin started the day with three in a row, including his own Jet Black ($3.40) in 2:00.3, Danny William ($13.30) in 1:59.4 for owner Kevin Gillis of Windsor, Ont., and back with his own Hoo Rah ($2.90) in 2:04.2. He also won back-to-back races with Brother John ($2.80) in 2:00.1 and Keaton ($2.80) in 1:58.2 for Windsor's George Robinson and took the finale with his own pacer Memory In Motion ($3.90) in 1:59.4. Next week, Rankin puts his announcing skills to the test, as he attempts to show how easy it is to call a harness race. Leamington would like to extend a special thank you to the Ontario Harness Horse Association for their "jog a horse" program, where kids and adults alike get to experience what it is like to perform on the track. Racing continues for the next five weekends at Leamington with post times Saturday and Sunday 1:30 p.m. To view Sunday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Sunday Results - Leamington Raceway. (With files from Leamington Raceway) Blue Eyed Cowboy ropes in win at Alberta Heavy favourite Blue Eyed Cowboy came flying by in the stretch to win the $20,000 Alberta Standardbred Horse Association Colt Stakes in a career-best 1:52 performance on Sunday afternoon at Alberta Downs. Bill Tainsh Jr. drove the stakes winner for owner/trainer Rod Starkewski of Lamont, Alta. Comes Home First (Jim Marino) was the first to get a call, leaving from post five and sprinting the opening quarter in :26.4. As he headed down the backstretch, Sonic Spark (Travis Cullen) swept to command whileBlue Eyed Cowboy -- away sixth from post three in the full field of 10 -- flushed out Ghost Pine (Brandon Campbell). Ghost Pine quickly surged to command, clearing just past the :56.1 half-mile mark while Blue Eyed Cowboy was left uncovered and stalled three and a half lengths off the lead. To read the rest of this story click here.  Allstar Seelster handles hike in class Three-year-old pacer Allstar Seelster stepped up to win the $11,000 Preferred 2 for horses and geldings on Sunday night at Flamboro Downs. Fresh off a victory last week at the Preferred 3 level, Jack Darling's Allstar Seelster turned back first over challenger Adkins Hanover and held off the pocket-pulling Brocks Fortune for the neck victory in 1:54. Mike Saftic drove the son of Artistic Fella to his fourth win of the season in 12 starts. Tendtowin finished two lengths behind in third. Russian Kisses earned her first win back in Ontario after sweeping the Spud Island Classic in Charlottetown, P.E.I. with a 1:55 score in the $11,000 Fillies & Mares Preferred 2 in 1:55 for owner/driver Robert Shepherd and trainer Isabelle Darveau. She now has 11 victories in 27 starts this year. To read the rest of the story click here.  Web Cam notches fourth straight at Rideau Web Cam continued his Rideau Carleton Raceway reign and is now a perfect four-for-four racing against the Ottawa oval's top pacers. Assigned post six in this week's $6,500 Winners Over Handicapped Pace, 3-5 favourite Web Cam ($3.30) hustled to the front of the seven-horse field off the gate and led all the way through fractions of :27, :56.3 and 1:25.1 en route to the 1:54.1 triumph. He held off the pocket-pulling Beach Runner A M by a head while Chasin Racin edged out Onyx V A three and a half lengths behind for third-place. Web Cam is a seven-year-old Astreos-Rudy Cam gelding -- a half-brother to Canadian Pacing Derby champion Modern Legend. To read the rest of the story click here. Mach Wheel wins first out for new connections Mach Wheel was victorious in his Truro Raceway debut on Sunday afternoon, taking the top class for his new connections and ending Oakmont's win streak. Leaving from outside his five rivals in the $1,275 Winners Over Pace, Mach Wheel took over command at the half and cruised home to a three length triumph in 1:55.3 over the "good" track with a two second variant. Oakmont, who was riding a three-race win streak, was forced to settle for second-place honours and Sf Razamatazz finished third. The six-year-old Mach Three gelding was a recent addition to the Darren Crowe stable and is owned by Nova Scotia connections Roy Springett of Windsor, Robert Siteman of Valley, William Shearer of Brookfield and Donald Charles Smith of Brookside. To view the rest of the story click here. Breaker rebounds to win at St. John's Three-year-old pacing colt Son Of Rocknroll recovered from an early break in stride to win the NLSBA Stake Invitational on Sunday at St. John's Racing and Entertainment Centre. Trained and driven by local horseman Daniel Williams, Son Of Rocknroll made up his 12 length deficit to defeat pacesetter Salmonier Storm by half a length in 2:05.2 in the $1,200 non-wagering race. The Rocknroll Hanover-Village Blush colt has now won six of his 11 starts in his sophomore year. Two-year-old fillies Force Of Grey and Silverhill Legacy were a distant third and fourth to complete the field. To view the rest of this story click here. Salute is best at Inverness Raceway Salute became the third different winner in Inverness Raceway's Invitational series on Sunday afternoon. Salute fought off favourite Junebugs Baby to win the $2,500 third leg of the series by three-quarters of a length in 1:56.4. Pocket-sitter Bonnys Mac rounded out the top three finishers over two lengths behind. Redmond Doucet trains and drives the nine-year-old gelding for the Ruth Shannon Stable of Port Hawkesbury, N.S. The victory was Salute's fourth and fastest this year from 15 starts and followed up a fourth and fifth-place finish in the previous divisions. To view the rest of the story click here.

On Monday, June 23, the Ontario Harness Horse Association issued a response to the decision of Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural to ban driver Brian Sears from participating in anything but stakes racing at the East Rutherford, NJ track. Sears and Gural confirmed the news last Thursday. At the time, Gural would not comment on the decision, saying "I assure the industry that I have a reason." Last Friday morning at the Meadowlands, the track’s morning qualifying session was delayed slightly when Sears showed up to drive the horses he was named on. Officials from the Meadowlands asked Sears to leave, which he did. Gural issued a statement later Friday which stated, in part, that, "Mr. Sears and I have our differences over the standards that we choose to apply at the Meadowlands and whether or not he should have been loyal to the Meadowlands rather than move to Yonkers.” Gural commented that he likes Sears and that the veteran reinsman is a “great driver.” OHHA Responds to Meadowlands Situation In all jurisdictions, harness racing is governed, policed and controlled by a political body – normally a Racing Commission or Gaming Commission. These regulatory organizations are charged with licensing individuals – and tracks – to participate in racing. They are also responsible for policing the game. They hand out penalties when rules are broken and suspend or expel individuals if there are transgressions. The idea of any racetrack owner or operator stepping in and handing out their own sanctions including exclusions – particularly in instances when the regional governing body has found no wrongdoing – is a very dangerous precedent to allow. The recent action by the Meadowlands’ lessee in prohibiting one of the most talented and respected drivers in our sport from participating in races at the New Meadowlands is one of the worst examples of what is so wrong with the exercise of this unbridled power. For a day or so we were led to believe that one of the sport’s heroes was somehow guilty of wrongdoing. Brian Sears’ reputation was tarnished as we all awaited the news that the operator of the New Meadowlands was protecting us all from some unknown, but serious, misdeed by the sport’s aptly named ‘White Knight.’ He was embarrassed publicly when he went to drive in baby races and qualifiers Friday morning and he was almost literally being taken off his mounts on orders from race secretary Peter Koch. Exclusions are often followed by reciprocity as we have seen WEG here in Canada deny licensed horsemen opportunities to race at WEG tracks unless and until they have gotten to race at the Meadowlands. No reason need be given to justify the decision. Innuendo and false statements seem to do the trick if they come from another racetrack operator. Jeff Gural is not the only one to do this, so has WEG and so have other US track operators. Their actions, done with impunity, infringe on the government’s power to license horsemen and can limit the use of that license to the point of rendering it almost totally useless. It seems to us that no track should have an absolute immunity from having to justify an exclusion of a licensee in good standing. We have seen all too often situations where innocent horsemen, who merely represent the interests of their constituents, are barred or ejected from participating or even entering the grounds where some proprietor has taken arbitrary action just because he wants to. If the government doesn’t stop the abuse by track operators then a horseman should have the right to bring an action at law based upon such exclusion. The motive in the Sears case points out with crystal clarity how some track operators will use such power to serve their own selfish ends. And, if other tracks began to retaliate in kind, that would create chaos in the driving community and start internecine wars between track owners. None of which is good for the sport and the owners who want the best drivers at a given track on a given day or night to give them the best chances to win. If Mr. Gural had a legitimate reason to bar Brian Sears that should have been communicated to the racing officials and they should have determined if there were grounds for exclusion. Now we have learned that the action hidden behind the mantra of guarding integrity of the sport was an ugly rouse by someone wanting us to believe that only OUR interests were the guiding reason action was being taken. Shame on Mr. Gural and all of us for tolerating this behavior from track operators who choose to dictate their will for their own selfish gains. Allowing private tracks to undercut the regulatory body’s decision-making ability on the fitness of an individual to participate in the game hurts everyone. If a track has cause to suspect wrongdoing from a licensed individual, it can present its evidence to the independent regulatory body for an unbiased determination. Allowing tracks to unilaterally exclude licensed individuals, without any cause, violates the rights of horsemen and renders the existence of separate regulatory bodies meaningless. The Ontario Harness Horse Association has defended, and will continue to vigorously defend, the rights of licensed individuals in good standing with the regulatory body to properly exercise the full extent of their racing licenses. For a racetrack operator to use private property laws as justification for banning any individual should not be tolerated. In the court case between the Ontario Harness Horse Association and the Ontario Racing Commission and Sudbury Downs Holding, heard by the Court Of Appeal for Ontario in 2002, Justices Morden, Catzman and Rosenberg stated: “I now consider the intersection between the Commission’s powers, just considered, and Sudbury Downs’ property rights. I must say at the outset that I do not think that it is a completely accurate characterization of the issue between the parties to say that it is concerned with Sudbury Downs’ property rights. While it is true that taking some action which may allow members of the OHHA to race at Sudbury Downs necessarily involves some interference with its property rights, the essence of the dispute is not over property rights but over exclusion of certain licensed persons from the sport of horse racing. It is much more a horse racing issue than a property issue. Its bearing on Sudbury Downs’ property rights is more incidental than direct.” They later wrote: “The court, taking into account the purposes of the Labour Relations Act, held that such a power was necessarily implied. The same process of implication is applicable in this case. Horse racing is conducted on the ground. The exercise of the power to govern and regulate this activity necessarily involves making of some decisions which will have some effect on the private property rights of the owner of the ground.” OHHA supports the findings of the Court Of Appeal Of Ontario which ensures that all licensees are afforded due process and a full hearing before the state or provincial regulatory bodies who will ultimately make decisions and orders regarding the suitability of the licensee to continue to practice their profession. Mr. Gural was quoted in a recent article, written by Debbie Little, as stating: “In general there is very little loyalty and people do what is best for them financially, which hurts because I am putting so much time, effort and money into this, but hopefully, someday I will get slots and I can pick and choose who races here. That day can’t come soon enough, but in the meantime I will do the best I can.” Let’s hope that it never comes to this. From the Ontario Harness Horsemen's Association

Grand River Raceway hosted its sixth annual backstretch Open House on May 25/14. Attendance was higher than ever. Nearly 300 people of all ages attended for a rare glimpse of horse racing behind-the-scenes. Donations at the door topped $200 for the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society. A full tour of the Open House stations included: a tour of the judges' stand and announcer's booth with track announcer Gary Guy; the basics of breeding, owning, training, driving and caring for racehorses; a tour of the paddock, testing areas, starting car and track maintenance vehicles; and the unique opportunity to drive a racehorse. Grand River Raceway extends its sincere appreciation to the horsepeople who graciously volunteered their time, and horses, to help with this event: staff of the Hands On Horses Program (Stacey Reinsma, Natalie Elliott, Ken Ellis), Brian Tropea of the Ontario Harness Horse Association, Chris Munroe, Murray Small, Marit Valstad, Anna Glide, Kristen Cobb, Paula McGuire, Ken Middleton, John Braid, John Newell, Gary Guy, Jim Ellis, Justin Herod, Chris Polifroni, Ron Waples, Julie Walker, Jane Belore, Ron O'Neill, Debi O'Brien Moran and Hannah Beckett from Trot 4 Kids. To view photos from the Grand River Raceway Open House: To view the CTV coverage of the event: Grand River Raceway's 2014 live racing season kicks off on June 2 at 6:30. by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway

Grand River Raceway hosted its fifth annual backstretch Open House on Saturday, October 19. Despite dark skies and showers, 156 people of all ages attended for a rare glimpse of horse racing behind-the-scenes. More than $150 was raised at the door for the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society. A full tour of the Open House stations included: a tour of the judges' stand and announcer's booth with track announcer Gary Guy; the basics of breeding, owning, training, driving and caring for racehorses; a tour of the paddock, testing areas, starting car and track maintenance vehicles; and the unique opportunity to drive a racehorse. Grand River Raceway extends its sincere appreciation to people who volunteered their time to help with this event, and provided horsepower, including: staff of the Hands On Horses Program (Stacey Reinsma, Natalie Elliott, Ken Ellis), Brian Tropea of the Ontario Harness Horse Association, Kristen Cobb, Kyle Bossence, Paula McGuire, Ken Middleton, Ben Holliday, John Newell, Bob McClure, Caroline Holliday, Gary Guy, Joe Currie, Tom Williams and Debi O'Brien Moran. The Grand River Raceway event is the final Open House of the season presented in cooperation with the Hands On Horse Program and the Ontario Harness Horse Association. Earlier events were staged at The Raceway at Western Fair District, Clinton Raceway and Hanover Raceway. For information about similar upcoming events, visit The Hands On Horses Program returns to Grand River Raceway for the track's 2013 season finale on Wednesday, October 30, when fans can win a spin around the track in a double-seated jog cart between the races. For more information about this event: To view photos from the Grand River Raceway Open House: by Kelly Spencer for Grand River Raceway  

The Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) today issued its response to the recently announced five-year plan for the province’s horse racing industry. The release says that OHHA “feels encouraged by the suggested changes to the Ontario Racing Commission” and that it feels strongly “that with the Panel’s recommendations a better and more mutually supportive relationship will be achieved” between the ORC and Ontario horsepeople. The release also states that “OHHA fully supports the Panel’s suggestion to create one standardbred horsepersons’ group for the alliance tracks to represent all licensed members.” Here is the contents of the OHHA release: The Ontario Harness Horse Association thanks the members of the Panel for their time and effort in preparing a five-year plan that is to build a sustainable, viable horse racing industry. We fully recognize this effort has not been without its challenges. We understand that the Panel was working within the parameters as set and with the available limited government funding. In reality, there is no comparing of purse levels between the years under the Slots-at-Racetracks Program and this proposed five-year plan; horsepeople will be racing for significantly less money, at fewer tracks, on fewer race days and will be affected by this. OHHA feels encouraged by the suggested changes to the Ontario Racing Commission. As an association representing the Standardbred horsepeople in Ontario we have often experienced circumstances and situations in which there seemed to be a certain lack of consideration for the horsepeople’s realities of life and racing. We feel strongly that with the Panel’s recommendations a better and more mutually supportive relationship will be achieved. OHHA fully supports the Panel’s suggestion to create one Standardbred horsepersons group for the alliance tracks to represent all licensed members. The cost to the horsepeople will be greatly reduced when one group is elected to represent them, as opposed to the current four groups which has been the cause of duplication in services, insurance premiums, administration, etc. Certainly one association will strengthen the voice of the Standardbred horsepeople during required negotiations and any matters of concern. There remain certain unknown factors such as the exact division of monies distributed to the horsepeople and the tracks. This association will continue to work with the members of the Panel and try to establish more specifics. At a time further details become available additional comment will be provided by OHHA. From the Ontario Harness Horsemen's Association  

ELORA, ON - Back by popular demand, Grand River Raceway will host its fifth annual backstretch Open House on Saturday, October 19. Guests are invited to drop-in any time from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for a rare glimpse of horse racing behind-the-scenes. Admission is free. A full tour of the Open House's four main stations will last approximately one hour. The itinerary includes the unique opportunity to drive a racehorse. Standardbred racehorses and double-seated jog carts from the Hands On Horses Program will provide the horsepower. Other hands-on stations include a tour of the judges' stand and announcer's booth high atop the grandstand, and the opportunity to call a pre-recorded race alongside track announcer Gary Guy. Back in the barn, visitors will learn the basics of breeding, owning, training, driving and caring for racehorses in sessions led by industry experts. Machinery enthusiasts will enjoy the opportunity to view and learn about the equipment and techniques required to maintain the track surface. The ever-popular starting car will also be on display, and open for photo opps. No registration is required. The event is suitable for all ages, but children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. The Open House runs rain or shine. Participants are urged to wear closed-toe shoes and casual, comfortable clothing. Admission is free, but participants are urged to make a $2 donation at the door to support the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society. A BBQ lunch and beverages will be available for purchase between 11:30 - 2:00. The Grand River Raceway Open House is presented in cooperation with the Hands On Horse Program and the Ontario Harness Horse Association. More than 1,000 people have attended Grand River Raceway’s Open House event in the past four years. To view photos from the 2012 event:   For more information, visit or call (519) 846-5455 x238 or email By Kelly Spencer

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn has asked the horse racing transition panel to come up with a five-year plan for the industry in its next report, but some of the province's top stallions won't be around to see that, says a Hamilton advocate for local horse owners. Many owners have downsized or move out of the country altogether, said Brian Tropea, general manager of the Ontario Harness Horse Association. "Regardless of what the panel's report comes up with, there's already been a lot of damage to the industry and it'll be interesting to see if people reinvest in the industry or not," he told CBC Hamilton on Wednesday. 'If we lost 9,000 jobs in any other section of the economy, there would be an outrage. But because this is a rural issue, there doesn’t seem to have got the coverage than other industries'—Brian Tropea, general manager of the Ontario Harness Horse Association In a letter sent to the three-person transition panel on Tuesday, Wynn, writing as the minister of agriculture of food, asked the panel to provide a "comprehensive Five Year Plan" for the period of April 2014 to March 2019, including: Distributing the proposed minimum 800 race days for all three categories of racing. Recommending a governance structure for the industry and how Ontario Racing Commission can work with industry associations. Suggesting a specific amount of government investment for the industry. Wynn stressed that she requires "specific recommendations" in the upcoming report. "We are now in the home stretch. I look forward to seeing you at the finish line," Wynn wrote. The racing industry has been in a state of flux since last March, when the province ended its Slots at Racetracks (SARP) program, which saw a percentage of slot revenue used to fund race winnings. Industry in 'significant crisis' Tropea cited a report by the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, which blames the termination of the SARP program for creating "a significant crisis" in the industry. The report suggests more than 3,000 horse owners have left the industry since 2011, representing the loss of $1 billion in investment. Within the same period, 9,000 jobs were also lost. "If we lost 9,000 jobs in any other section of the economy, there would be an outrage," Tropea said. "But because this is a rural issue, there doesn’t seem to have got the coverage than other industries." Tropea said many Ontario horse owners have relocated to the U.S. Others are also no longer bringing horses into the province. "Rather than attracting that foreign investment, we are now taking our money and spending it in the U.S.," he said.  The OHRIA could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Although Tropea is disappointed about reduced racing opportunities, he said the premier is taking "a completely difference position" than her predecessors. "She wants to see a sustainable industry. Her definition of sustainability and ours might be quite different, but at least she is sitting down working with the industry," he said. The panel’s final report is expected in early October. Reprintd with permission by

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