Yay, there is racing this year! Now let’s fight for our incredible industry to make it grow!

Dave Landry



It was a small (the turn-out from the frontside/backside was disappointing) but select group of executive types, media and interested/concerned horsepeople who were at the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame yesterday at Woodbine for a press conference about the immediate future of thoroughbred racing in Ontario.
The good news: 133 racing dates beginning April 20, so while the number of dates that will be applied for to the ORC is down from the 167 dates applied for each of the last umpteen years, there is racing. And it will start only 19 days later than it did last year.
The overnight purses will reportedly be kept intact from a year ago on both breeds. Certainly with some 25 dates where they don’t have to hand out purses, there will be money in the bank for the upcoming rainy days.

Some trainers in attendance, like Robert Tiller, seemed relieved that at least there was news, there will be racing and we aren’t sitting in the dark twiddling our thumbs anymore. “Now we can call our owners and say, we’re going to race,” said one horseperson.

Other trainers were distressed about the late start (ship in date of March 1 is almost a month later than usual) and the ultimate lost wages.
Some trainers realize that horses will have to get legged up at farms for the month of February and with 48 days to get ready on-track for opening day, we surely will see a lot of locals in need of catching up. And, perhaps the US trainers will parachute again with their Florida-ready runners, their own US staff members, take the money and run.

Woodbine CEO Nick Eaves, Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin and Woodbine chairman Jim Lawson spoke to the attendees and tanked a litany of people who worked to get something going for the next 2 years.
The three-man transitional funding panel were in the front row as were other reps from Toronto and Milton. Woodbine and Mohawk received funds to run the tracks for the next two years, numbers were not disclosed. it also has a deal in principle with the OLG for rent for the slot machines.
No details of any kind were realised at the conference and Eaves declined to say if/how many layoffs were coming. He did say that there would be a signiciant change in the business and surely that means a lot of trimming of the 2,166 staff roster.
Another 2,500 backstretch workers plus those working in other areas where you get paid if there is action on the backstretch or on the track, will lose a lot of income.

Now Woodbine must figure out a way to keep the betting up so that it can keep the racing at its strong level that has made it one of the best tracks in the world.
A huge marketing push must be made to get new fans to put horse racing on their list of things to do. McMeekin suggested that revenues will need to be raised in other ways although he did not elaborate.

It is good news that there will be some equine interests under the wing of OMAFRA, now that the ORC has moved there. Our industry needs to keep up a good relationship with the government, a government that has come a little more our way since a year ago.

Better news could come this weekend following the Liberal convention at the former Maple Leaf Gardens. The odds are that a woman will become premier, hopefully, for racing purposes, it will be rural-minded KATHLEEN WYNNE. That could pave the way for a better deal for horse racing down the road.

Meanwhile, there were some breeders in the audience. Bernard McCormack admits people have sold their mares or moved their mares. Stallions have moved out of the province. The two-year deal does not actually help those who invest in the business on the five-year-cyle of breeding mares etc.
“This will work if we can grow it again and sustain it, I believe we can. Breeders are gamblers too, we are always optimistic.”

One of the prominent horsepeople who runs hundreds and hundreds of horses at Woodbine admitted the fewer racing dates will mean something to his business.

“It will affect us a little,” said Woodbine’s leading trainer Mark Casse. “We already have a plan to spread [horses] out and we plan to go to Arlington this year.”

Sue Leslie, who has worked around the clock with Woodbine and her HBPA and OHRIA groups was somewhat disappointed to be sure:

“While this announcement ensures racing for the next two years at WEG, it does not deal with the five year breeding cycle and the investments made by breeders, horse owners, and race track operators all across this Province. Horse racing must be integrated into the OLG’s overall gaming strategy in order for the industry to remain sustainable.”

A casino at Woodbine is imperative. Say YES to a WOODBINE CASINO!

A sidelight of the news conference was longtime owner/breeder and HBPA head Larry Regan coming forward and, while off topic, certainly made some good points.
Regan noted that the local owners and breeders need to be protected and that there seems to be a bias in stall handout in favour of American outfits. Then the huge amount of purse money that leaves the country is not taxed, according to Regan, and our business does not benefit. American outfits and invaders tend to bring their own employees as well.







Citing a move to more of the racing side of the industry, Eugene Melnyk’s farm manager Phil Hronec confirmed the 28 mares entered in the Feb. 11 Fasig Tipton mixed sale. The mares include Grade 1 winner Pool Land, Horse of the Year Sealy Hill, Barracks Road, Indian Vale and so many more.
Also in the sale is the champion mare ATLANTIC HURRICANE, who was injured in preparation for the Sunshine Millions.





Norm Files photo of Party Lad


Jal Dastur’s Party Lad (Vibank-Helen’s Fury, by Stormy Atlantic, bred by Nancy Mitchell) , winner of an allowance and $75,000 optional claiming event over the Gulfstream grass in his last start and an allowance race on the main track at Penn National before that, has been installed as the 3-1 favorite for Saturday’s inaugural running of the $75,000 Van Berg Stakes for 3-year-olds over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at the distance of about 5 ½ furlongs.

Named to oppose Party Lad in the Van Berg are Strike the Note, (4-1); Black Sheep’s Agave Cat (9-2); Animal Style, (6-1); Strong Response, (8-1); Evan’s Calling, (8-1); Sir Pulpit, (12-1); Jo Jo’s Comet, (15-1); Seeking Payday, (15-1); and Nev’s Cat, (20-1).




Uphill Stables’ (Leonard Zenith et al) CLEARLY NOW, a Kentucky bred by Horse Greeley, will take on champion SHANGHAI BOBBY in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes. More to come.

Cindy Pierson Dulay’s image of Shanghai Bobby



Saturday, Gulfstream Park, post time: 5:05 p.m. EST
HOLY BULL S.-GIII, $400,000, 3yo, 1 1/16m

1 Shanghai Bobby K Harlan’s Holiday Napravnik Pletcher 122
2 Frac Daddy K Scat Daddy Cohen McPeek 116
3 Clearly Now K Horse Greeley Saez Lynch 116
4 Bern Identity K Bernstein Lopez Breen 122
5 Sr. Quisqueyano Exclusive Quality Rosario Olivares 120
6 Dewey Square Bernardini Lanerie Romans 116
7 Itsmyluckyday K Lawyer Ron Trujillo Plesa Jr 120
8 Tulira Castle War Pass Castellano DiVito 116
9 Fredericksburg Speightstown Velazquez Matz 116
10 Joshua’s Comprise Comprise D’meaux Rose 116



TOP WOODBINE 2YO FILLY and Husbands try Grade 2

Saturday, Gulfstream Park, post time: 4:05 p.m. EST
FORWARD GAL S.-GII, $200,000, 3yo, f, 7f

1 Ashlee’s Princess Put It Back Cruz Dwoskin 116
2 Fusaichiswonderful K Fusaichi Pegasus Rosario Pletcher 122
3 My Happy Face Tiz Wonderful Castellano Rodriguez 116
4 Spring Venture Spring At Last Husbands Casse 120
5 Pow Wow Wow Indian Charlie Lezcano Zito 116
6 Kauai Katie K Malibu Moon Velazquez Pletcher 120



Trainer SETH BENZEL tweeted 2 days ago: MARITIMER went 5/8ths on turf course at Meydan under foggy conditions this morning…on schedule for his first run on Jan.31st..