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How Can The Breeders Survive?

Published: March 22, 2012 10:19 pm ET

Last Comment: March 26, 2012 5:29 pm ET | 13 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association has sent the following letter to all Ontario MPPs and to OLG Chair Paul Godfrey.

Landing as it did, smack in the midst of our foaling season, the announcement terminating the Slots at Racetracks Program couldn’t have come at a worse time for Ontario breeders. Within minutes of the “Black Monday” announcement on March 12, 2012, the value of our assets vanished: our farms, our horses and our livelihood. The industry is currently in a state of panic as there is simply no market for our Ontario-sired horses.

Keep in mind that breeding farms currently have three years worth of investment in horse stock standing in their farm yards; yearlings that will be offered for sale this fall, foals being born this year, and pregnant mares. All of these horses have no perceived value due to the announcements stating the end of the Slots at Racetracks Program. Considering that the sale of yearlings in the fall is the sole means of income, it spells financial ruin for most breeding farms across this province and for those businesses that supply and support the breeding and racing industry.

In 2011, 4,059 Standardbred mares were bred within the province and the resulting foals will be delivered now thru to early summer. The average cost of production for a yearling cited in the 2007 Ontario Racing and Breeding Industry Profile study was $21,041, not including stallion service fees which range from $3,000 to $20,000. Mass slaughter is the scenario that played out in 2008 when decisions of the Quebec government resulted in the closure of racetracks in that province. This is an outcome that we want to avoid at all costs.

There are approximately 2,500 Standardbred breeders in Ontario. We are hardworking individuals who have invested everything into our farms, properties and into improving the quality of our livestock. Most of us are self-employed and hire additional labour to run our businesses in areas where job opportunities are scarce. Thousands of acres of prime agricultural land are required for producing grain, hay and straw. Services and products are obtained from veterinarians, blacksmiths, hay and grain suppliers, transport companies, tack, etc.

About three to four years of time and resources are invested into raising a horse before it is able to generate any return on investment. As a result, horse breeders are unable to respond quickly to market changes such as those announced this past week.

The Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program, which is deemed to be the best in the world, has been modelled by other racing jurisdictions as a means of supporting the agricultural sector. The racing opportunity for young horses in the Ontario Sires Stakes is the factor that makes the horses we raise worth purchasing in the sales ring and on the racetrack.

Another critical component that has helped ensure that economic investment occurs in the province has been the Ontario mare residency program which encourages individuals to keep mares in the province for 180 days surrounding foaling. Many mares have relocated to Ontario (foreign investment into the province) resulting in additional economic spinoff.

About half of the Ontario Sires Stakes purses in 2011 came from the industry’s portion of the Slots at Racetracks program. The other half came from wagering on our races--funding which will now amount to a trickle, faced with the planned proliferation of other gaming. Based on racing opportunities, purchasers will now be willing to pay only a fraction of what is presently invested in raising a yearling. Breeders will be guaranteed exorbitant losses, resulting in the death of an industry.

Needless to say, business at farms that stand stallions is being affected each day since the announcement. Stallion service bookings are being cancelled hourly. Mares are being relocated to other jurisdictions-- many to New York which has a healthy Sires Stakes program that is not in jeopardy.

Furthermore, many farms, having invested significant money in acquiring quality stallions, are watching their incomes disappear with stud fees that are now unlikely to be paid.

The slots revenue was the stimulus needed to energize and expand the industry, to the point that the horse racing sector currently contributes over 60,000 jobs to Ontario’s economy. Over 31,000 of those positions are fulltime. Horse racing’s expenditures for supplies and services within our communities exceed $2 Billion annually. But now, without either consultation or warning, the Ontario Government has placed a successful program in jeopardy. A five year lead time would have allowed breeders to gradually divest without having to go through financial ruin and unemployment.

The Standardbred breeders of this province support the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association which speaks on behalf of horse racing industry and ask that dialogue be initiated immediately to preserve the breeding industry before it is completely decimated. Independent analysis on implications of government decisions in consultation with OHRIA should be required before any further action is taken. That will ensure that there is a full understanding of how decisions will impact the province and the development of a responsible action plan. It will be unable to return to a healthy state once it is destroyed.

We hope and believe it is not the government’s intention to do away with horse racing, therefore it is imperative that we ensure that a horse supply exists which requires the presence of a breeding industry preferably based in Ontario where the province can economically benefit from this activity. For a modest investment and with proper re-structuring, we can ensure that a healthy supply of Ontario bred horses exists by protecting the Ontario Sires Stakes program. In order to salvage what is left of our breeding industry, announcements regarding the government’s intentions of maintaining a horse breeding sector must be provided IMMEDIATELY.

Recent announcements have been made stating that landlord/tenant negotiations will take place with individual racetracks. However, the process provides no commitments to breeders. Measures must be put in place to guarantee the stability of this important subsector of agriculture.

It is extremely important that we (through OHRIA) are able to meet with you and discuss how the breeding sector can survive.


Anna Meyers, President

The Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association

March 26, 2012 - 5:29 pmWanted to let you know what

Terry DeVos SAID...

Wanted to let you know what a well written letter Anna. Sure hits home for us and the reality of it all is hitting us hard. I too have circulated your letter to our local paper in Norfolk and sent a copy to our local MPP for Norfolk County. He has contacted us with support for this industry. He also called us personally while at the Rally today at Queen's Park and met us out on the lawn to show further support. Mr. Toby Barret encouraged us to keep writing newspapers, letters to the Editors to get our stories out to the public.

Terry and Sonia DeVos

March 24, 2012 - 10:00 amWrite a letter (or e-mail)

Carolyn Rae SAID...

Write a letter (or e-mail) the editor of the newspaper in that area, with the exact message you have left on this website, along with a copy of the letter you sent to Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture. Let everyone in the area know that your MPP, The Minister of Agriculture, refuses to acknowledge your correspondence, or let you know where he stands on this very important issue concerning the Agricultural community in this province! We are not only fighting for our livelihoods, but the future of our children and grandchildren in the Province of Ontario.

March 23, 2012 - 7:50 pmAlan Fair We are still

Alan W Fair SAID...

Alan Fair
We are still waiting for our MPP, Ted McMeekin, who is the Minister of Agriculture, and whose riding includes Flamboro Downs, to at least make a statement. We have e-mailed him several times, with no reply, and his voice mail is always full. He is our represenative at Queens Park. We are hoping he will vote for his constituents and not his party. The very least he could do is to let us know where he stands.

March 23, 2012 - 1:36 pmGreat Article, This is

Bobby Gordon SAID...

Great Article, This is terrible news to everyone invoved from the 60,000 workers about to lose their job, to the trainers, drivers, breeders etc. about to lose their way of life. Living on p.e.i. My family and i run a Standardbred nursery which we are very proud of. They compete in the "Atlantic Sires Stakes" When they are done racing here 90 per cent of them move up to the "Big Leagues" of Ontario. You guys have the best racing program in all of the world. Why can't your premier be proud of this fact, it clearly is making money for Ontario, going by the numbers.One would think they would promote the heck out of this, Instead they are about to do the total opposite, and doing so taking the livelihood of MANY people as stated above in Ontario, and this will create a domino effect that may reach way further than Ontario. I hope and pray for each and everyone involved in the wonderful business of harness racing that this doesn't go through. Best of luck. Bobby Gordon Jr, of Elm Grove Farms

March 23, 2012 - 1:16 pmVery well written.

Bobby Gordon SAID...

Very well written. This is terrible news at a terrible time for everyone involved in the racing game.From the 60,000 workers who will be out of work, to all the trainers, owners, breeders,etc. This will be felt much further away than Ontario, My family and I live in P.E.I, the "Kentucky of Canada" We have a modest breeding farm which we are very proud of.Out of Atlantic Canada's finest yearlings that make the "Big Leagues" 90% of these go to Ontario. The thing that i cannot understand is Ontario has the best Harness Racing program in the world, Why can't your premier be proud of this fact and promote it?? He is in fact doing the opposite, I hope and pray that he doesn't go through with this, i am quite sure i can speak on behalf of Atlantic Canadas Harness racing community, Best of luck to everyone in Ontario at this very difficult time, hopefully this all blows over. Yours Truly, Bobby Gordon Jr. Elm Grove Farms.

March 23, 2012 - 1:10 pmThank you Anna for

Carolyn Rae SAID...

Thank you Anna for presenting the facts concisely and to the point, on behalf of the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario. I have copied your letter, along with the URL of Standardbred Canada, into an e-mail which I have sent to the Editors of the Lindsay Post, My (Peteborough), The Uxbridge Standard and the Scugog Standard, in the hopes that they will print your letter to assist in presenting the truth to the constituents of this region.

March 23, 2012 - 10:51 amThank you Anna I am on my

Thank you Anna I am on my way to give this letter and a picture of my Sportswriter who was shipped to New York last week to my local Mpp. I am sure he will not meet with me but at least I can give him something to read. Well written.

March 23, 2012 - 9:47 amAnna, Great letter, you


Great letter, you covered all the bases. Thank you.


March 23, 2012 - 7:36 amThank you Anna . You have

Thank you Anna .
You have stated succinctly what all Ontario Breeders are going through right now .
It seems these politicians have little comprehension about the race horse industry in Ontario .

Shelagh McKinley
Tymal Farms

March 23, 2012 - 7:27 amIn view of everything that

In view of everything that has taken place during the Liberal rein in Ontario and Canada, how could anyone ever vote for a Liberal candidate in any election. They just do not have any idea or ability on how to promote any thing that is good for Ontario or Canada. They do not know how to get it done. Bruce T. Winning

March 23, 2012 - 6:50 amThe Ontario program has been

Thomas Hicks SAID...

The Ontario program has been the highly successful model against which all others in the US are compared. Ontario has attracted US breeders due its wide array of fine stallions and demand for yearlings driven by the well structured and lucrative Ontario Sires Stakes menu. We have been long-standing breeders in Ontario and an investor in syndicated stallions. Should the Ontario program be eliminated or signficantly diminished, economics will force our investment to go elsewhere.

We encourage all breeders to support steps being taken by the Ontario equine industry to inform legislators and the general population of the jobs and economic impact at risk.

March 22, 2012 - 11:32 pmAnna has captured the harsh

Anna has captured the harsh reality of the impact created by the drastic,draconian action of our government.I can't imagine how any of our elected liberal MPPs could possibly live with themselves after reading this and knowing that they have ruined the lives of thousands of people.This is a terribly sad time created by very bad leaders who clearly have not taken the time to consider all the ramifications of ending the Slots at Racetracks program.Shame on all of you.
Thank you Anna.Let's hope that someone at Queen's Park reads your letter and absorbs what it really means.

March 22, 2012 - 10:42 pmThank you Anna. Well written

J Ruch SAID...

Thank you Anna.
Well written and well supported by myself and my clients,(9 of which are US owners taking advantage of our program).

Jeff Ruch
Pinestone Farns

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