Written by: Jennifer Morrison

The Ontario Sired racing program has undergone some changes, but many class of races and the breeders’ awards have remained.

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The final week of August will be one of the most important for the Ontario Thoroughbred industry this year.

The annual Canadian Premier Yearling Sale, hosted by the Ontario division of the CTHS, takes place Thursday, August 31st at the Woodbine sales pavilion and some 300 Canadian-foaled yearlings will go through the ring.

For the breeders of these youngsters, this is their ultimate payday with the chance that their homebreds go on to win races for their new owners.

For the prospective buyers, these will be their runners for 2018.

The encouraging news heading into sales week (which includes the popular Canadian Millions night of racing on August 30th for graduates of previous sales) is the Ontario breeding program remains one of the best of its kind in North America.

And plenty of excitement has been generated this summer not only from the success of Ontario-bred horses on American tracks and in U.S. sale rings, but Ontario-sired runners, such as the brilliant Pink Lloyd, have been making headlines as well.

“The sale deserves to be strong as the purse offerings at Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) are among the strongest on the continent,” said Jim Lawson, president and CEO of WEG. “And the Ontario breeders have proven once again this year the high quality of Ontario-breds on the racetrack. The Ontario Sired racing program at Woodbine has worked well this season and I expect it to be consistent next season.”

The Ontario Sired racing program has undergone some adjustments by WEG in the past 12 months, for instance adding and eliminating some races, but many class of races and the breeders’ awards have remained, essentially, intact.

For each of the last three years, the Thoroughbred Improvement Program (TIP) has been worth $30 million, which includes breeders and stallion owner incentives, restricted overnight purse money and stakes purse supplements for province bred and Ontario-sired horses.

“The Ontario Sired program isn’t going away and in our talks with WEG, I don’t anticipate any major changes in 2018,” said Sue Leslie, horse owner, trainer and president of the HBPA (Ontario).

“We’re somewhat isolated [in Ontario]. Trainers cannot just ship four hours up the road to a comparable racetrack and race. We have to have a program for people who live and race in Ontario; that is the foundation. You want to reward that foundation with a program like this.”

Sherry McLean, who recently opened her Northern Dawn farm in Caledon and has been invested in the breeding industry for several decades, believes the future is bright. “I believe in this industry and I am fully invested in the Ontario Sired program,” said Mclean, who purchased half a dozen broodmares this past winter and stands a new stallion, Reload, a full brother to former top Ontario sire Philanthropist.

“I know there are plenty of other breeders out there trying to improve their broodmare bands. And there are a lot of good stallions in the province.”

Pink Lloyd, a $30,000 yearling purchase in 2013 by Frank DiGiulio Jr. as agent for his Entourage Stable, which includes friends and family, has won all five of his races in 2017 including the open, Grade 3 Vigil Stakes while posting impressive Beyer Speed Figures such as 104, 103 and 101. The gelding, bred by John Carey, is a son of top Ontario sire Old Forester, who is well represented in this year’s auction.

There is also a half brother to Pink Lloyd in the catalogue; a grey colt by first year sire Souper Speedy. Souper Speedy, a son of Indian Charlie bred on the same cross as top American sire Uncle Mo, is one of several exciting stallions in the province. The attractive stud has 24 yearlings catalogued.

“I like the catalogue this year,” said Leslie. “I there is a good mixture of Ontario sired yearlings and Ontario-breds by American stallions. That balance is a good thing for our business.”

In addition to Pink Lloyd, there are plenty of other Ontario sired runners who are making headlines. The exciting pair of two-year-olds, Summer Sunday, bred by Trinity West Stables, and Be Vewy Vewy Quiet, bred by Peri, d’Onofrio and DiGuilio Jr. are unbeaten youngsters by Silent Name (Jpn).

Tony and Leslie Russo are the breeders of the Court Vision filly Listenlindalisten, a double stakes winner this summer at Woodbine, Osprey Farm bred the stakes winning Old Forester filly Silver Princess and Patricia and Robert Weber King and His Court (Court Vision), a stakes winner this year and the Champion Two-Year-Old of 2016.

“I am confident there will always be an Ontario Sired program,” said Leslie. “But we have to make sure we have a program that is in the best interests of horses that are in the stalls here and running here. Might it be tweaked from time to time? It might, but simply to adjust to the horse population and the economics. It will still remain one of the best programs anywhere.”