"One pool"

Published: June 9, 2013 06:31 pm EDT

Does the recent Globe and Mail article or any rhetoric coming from the current Liberal government give those of us in horse racing any confidence in our industry’s future? No.

Are we assured Ontario will have a viable horse racing industry enabling us to raise our families, breed and race quality horses and stay in Ontario? No.

We saw the Liberal government of the past set out to destroy the industry we love. Today, our current Premier and Agriculture Minister vows to right the wrongs of the past. And while the Liberals play musical chairs with the Premier’s seat, we are left waiting and wondering. As I await the birth of my second child, I’m trying to be hopeful and optimistic. Our family is deeply entrenched not only this industry but in this province. While being hopeful and optimistic, we are all wary of being foolish and naive.

The last 16 months have been a wake-up call for our industry. There is no worse feeling than being a pawn. Horse racing matters most to us, not to political parties, not to racetrack owners, not to the OLG – we should be at the centre of advocating for our future. For our industry to survive and, and actually grow again we need to have a clear and concise voice. One voice speaking as one industry – speaking to government, speaking to the Commission, speaking to the public, speaking with the industry and for the industry. No one in Ontario should be confused about what horse racing is and why it matters to rural Ontario and the province as a whole. We must build a racing model that builds our fan base. We need to shut off the fire hoses and grab our tool belts. We need an open dialogue on how our industry can be built again, hopefully grown leading to the day this mess is undone to some extent. Personally I think we need to utilize the only tool we have always had, Our Product.

Step 1

Ontario harness horse racing is one industry. One pool of horses to draw from with the result being a MUST. We must have competitive races going on the track at every facility, big or small, at all times in Ontario. Jeff Gural has already shown that competitive racing in every form grows the handle, grows the attendance and heightens the experience people have at the facility. We need to do better and we need to do it now.

"One pool"

We have to shed this idea that competitive races can be formed in a few hours. We will need to modernize the way we collect entries and what we do with them. By pooling our entries we can build competitive races easily . By putting a Director of Racing in charge, with a 24-48 hour window with all communication tools at his or her disposal, this task is now doable. We need to recognize this is paramount to our survival. We need tracks to coordinate and work together to improve our product and fan experience level.

This isn’t anything new, it’s just new to us.

A functioning overseeing organization with an experienced Director of Racing could coordinate race track dates, draws, all the while keeping the government apprised of its data and customer feedback.

I see it as simple as this. If we can’t take people from the slot parlours, sit them down at a table and show them their money at work and have them enthusiastic about returning, we are letting ourselves down.

The words of the day are transparency and accountability. people demand it, and governments try to provide it. We can. This won’t be easy but it is very attainable. We all know we have to do better, hopefully we can start to have an open dialogue about how to do it. It's long overdue.

Anthony MacDonald


In reply to by Will Yamakva

No one said a horsemen was going to lead the way. I am nearly trying to create dialog.
I am speaking about internal issues that absolutely need to be handled and fixed by knowledgeable and forward thinking horse people or at least people with knowledge of the issues, hurtles, and has some new ideas that people can look at and be interested in rather than the same old "That won't Work" mind set.
I'm simply trying to give people a platform to speak their minds and share ideas with other people looking to do the same.
We have to start some where. It's been over a year. Either there isn't any plan formulated or for some reason we are all being left in the dark....again!!

Look at the major sports and how they all got bigger....

Baseball, hockey, football, and basketball, all have businessmen calling the shots, not people involved in the game at some capacity.

Hiring a horseman to lead the way, is just incredibly bad business when marketing is the idea is to get fans back to the game.


Your two thoughts are paramount to trying to put on a proper betting product and are welcomed. Coordination to ensure the sport is not putting on races that are unbettable and/or at tracks with zero handle is something that is long overdue for the sport in Ontario.

Much of what you offer was documented in the recent "RDSP" by Standardbred Canada several years ago. The due diligence on things like the "Canada One" network, non-overlap of cards and signals and carding deep races through scheduling etc, are done.

The industry should probably find a way to implement them, and/or incorporate those things into the OLG/Racing partnership. I suspect Darryl Kaplan can lead the charge on that, or at least provide the framework in some form.



This is a good message Anthony but it has to get to the masses---not just the few who read this site. We, for the most part, are the converted. We know that the present racing model is bady in need of a huge fix. According to the OLG, racing is "the weakest link" and they want rid of us. Track owners feel likewise. The current product is nothing but a burden. We've been hearing for years that most track owners/operators want to eliminate horse racing. Dennis Mills at racingfuture.com has an excellent letter of proposal that should be read.


Our future lies precariously in the hands of the Liberals. Wynne appears to be gaining popularity. Toronto and other urban centres will likely vote "their own" back into power while the rural areas of Ontario will support the PC party. Our voices outside of those urban centres will be but a whisper---again. We can't rely on the government to fix all of the problems. My 'city' friends and family are not without compassion but there is a large number of people who don't understand or are not even aware of the problem at hand for several reasons. We need to educate the masses as to WHY the horse racing industry is relevant and deserves to survive. We need to provide a product that is exciting, enticing, competitive, rewarding, comprehensible and honourable. We need to move into the 21st century----NOW!

Thanks Anthony for starting a dialogue
We need a J Gural in Ontario! A man committed to building a fan base and a product that attracts the betting dollar.
As it stands now, in Ontario, we have too many groups working at cross purposes-too many special interest groups; each and every one looking primarily at their bottom line. The race tracks cutting costs is not conducive to customer enjoyment, drivers giving out holes to their buddies resulting in boring Indian file racing (there is nothing more exciting than the Meadowlands shuffle). Owners reluctant to give a purse percentage to advertise and promote our sport.
There is lots of blame to go around, what we need is someone to "take the reins" and provide the leadership to get all the concerned parties together and hammer out a better way forward; someone like J Gural who is capable of thinking "outside the box" .
Edward (Ted) Wilson

In Anthony's blog he mentions the need to re-build the fan base and in Dante Sindori's reply he correctly points out that you can't just have bums in the seats; the industry needs actual gamblers and for gamblers to support the product they have to feel they can win. There lies the single biggest challenge facing the racing industry going forward.

The race game has already lost an entire generation of gamblers because of high track takeouts and a belief that the game is not beatable like other forms of gambling with much lower takeouts. I am not sure if the industry will ever accept this fact. The gamblers of today because of the internet are much more educated about takeouts then the gamblers were in the 60's, 70,s and 80's plus they have many more options all at the click off the mouse.

Who in their right mind could expect a young person to choose racing as their game of choice. It isn't happening and it won't happen with the current broken business model. Like it or not they have to get more much more competitive. In this day and age take out rates above 10% won't cut it. The racing industry may say we can't afford this because we have expenses that other forms of gambling don't have but i would say you can't afford not to, because if the gambling base disappears so does your industry. If this industry wants wants to attract new gamblers then it starts by showing you are serious by competing for their business.

Great work Anthony- the Meadowlands has proven horse racing works IF you work at it. WEG is doing some ads for the NA cup. BUT - KD is only opening the dining room every OTHER Saturday ???- closed during OSS night , Georgian may not open theirs at all - come on guys - we are trying to attract customers not drive them away .

I couldn't agree more with Anthony, we need a commissioner to run things, we had a great product arguably the best in the world. We have been let down badly by the leadership or rather lack of leadership in our industry. The usual suspects have had their chance. Time for some fresh people like Anthony to get a chance.

First off Anthony, Thank you for your dedication and your commitment to trying to save Harness Racing. Obviously something has to be done and you have many good ideas. Trying to implement some or all would be interesting. Obviously the ways of the past are no longer working. MR. Gural took the FIRST STEP and tried to do something. He saw a flawed model and sat down with a group of committed industry members and they put together something that is working. What Harness racing needs is 1) A commitment from all involved. 2) New Ideas. 3) A governing panel that would create something different and also market this great sport to a new demographic. 4) Help from governing bodies that will enable a plan to be put forth and then implemented. If all of those things came together, I could see our great sport grow back to the high levels off the past.

We may only have one shot to do something and it has to be done right. It can't be done in the rushed manner that so many Racetrack Slot Programs of the past were signed into. Take a place like Florida for example, Horseman were so rushed to get slots, that they sign a very short and UNFAIR contract and then are at the mercy of Government leaders.

Anthony, Harness Racing is my passion in life and though I live in the states, I have a ton of Canadian family and friends who still live and race in Canada. Besides NY,PA, and NJ racing in the states is in the same position as we all know. I want to thank you for standing up and taking initiative.



Thank goodness somebody inside "gets it". It is important to grow attendance, but we can't just have bums in the seats, we need to have gamblers betting the product. The only way to grow the all-important handle is to give people the perception that they have a chance to win. We all know how we do this, so I won't go into detail and bore you, but it is imperative that this intelligent game based on skill and knowledge be marketed as good value for your betting dollar so that it can compete with all other available games.

I want to commend you for your forthright and transparent tweets. You and your attitude need to flood over all backstretch participants. There is so much potential in this game if the insipid perceptions are eliminated. This has to start with the insiders.