ORC On Re-Direction of Purse Monies; Standardbred Racing Conditions

Published: February 10, 2011 07:25 pm EST

The Ontario Racing Commission has released Implementation 2-2011 for the Ontario Racing Program dealing with the Re-Direction of Purse Monies


Under direction by the Board of the ORC to implement the Ontario Race Date Framework, the following initiative will apply to the conduct of racing on approved race dates of each racetrack in Ontario, and all licensees are directed to comply with them accordingly:

Re-Direction of Purse Monies

In 2011, purse monies will be redirected from the purse pool of one racetrack to the purse pool of another racetrack, where that re-distribution has been determined under the Ontario Racing Program, and where those racetracks are owned/controlled by the same company or related companies, as identified under their licence to operate a racetrack in Ontario.

Those racetrack operators will be required to submit a business case for the redistribution of purse monies, pursuant to the Rules, and a decision will be communicated that authorizes the transfer of these funds.

Please be advised that further implementations with respect to other technical elements coming out under the Ontario Racing Program will be issued shortly.

Standardbred Racing Conditions

The Ontario Racing Commission also released Implementation 3-2011 under the Ontario Racing Program dealing with the following issues related to Standardbred Racing Conditions:

1. Canadian preference
2. Purse to claiming price ratios
3. Minimum claiming amounts
4. Qualifying Standards
5. Time Allowances
6. Allowances for Ontario-sired
7. Allowances for purse earnings
8. Conditions based on starts
9. Also Eligible conditions
10. Two-year-old preference

Click here for further details about these items.

(Ontario Racing Commission)


So what's the rule on US/Ontario, US/Canada partners or Ontario owners who train in the US and race in Ontario?

I think we should do everything we possibly can to discourage the already dwindling numbers of participants we have left in our great game.

Well said (written) Mr. Stommer, Mr. Sayfie, Mss. Charles. Great accurate (in my view) comments. However mark my words those that are in a position to change things in a positive way are not and will not listen. I wish I was wrong!

To Mr. Turner; not quite sure I understood your comment about this preference given to Ontario based as it only allows the wealthy Michigan horsemen to stable here. Are you in favor or not in favor of the so called wealthy horsemen from Michigan coming to Canada? Didn't quite understand that comment. Furthermore, those wealthy Michigan horsemen are the ones who have proven quality racehorses, they are also the ones who have been purchasing the Ontario Bred yearlings, they are also the same ones who are spending astronomical fees to breed to Ontario based sires?

This is more than just giving preferences to Ontario based horses. This is about "relationships". Everything in this life is based on relationships. So now if we want to race in Ontario, we have to develop new relationships, not saying that is bad, but it is like starting all over again.

I wonder like the one gentleman said about giving preferences to the Ontario residents at the slots over the people not from Ontario, I wonder if Michigan, Ohio, Illinois or other states who don't have slot enriched programs, I just wonder if these states would do the same thing? I would hope not! According to Keith Crawford from MHHA Board of Director's, the answer is no. In Michigan there could have been more Michigan Bred races but as Keith has indicated Michigan chose not to do it. This program disrupts families and does more harm than it does good, but only time will tell if that is indeed the outcome!

Indiana has instituded a similiar program, however their program if I recall is Indiana Sired not based, easier to comply with, but still it makes it difficult to race in Indiana. But now look at what they are faced with? A reduction of their program, a dramatic reduction. So, are the trainers and horsemen going to ride it out? Good question? If the horsemen leave Indiana and move elsewhere, what is Indiana left with?

Hopefully when this plan was instituded someone with a long range vision looked at all the scenerio's and possible effects. It's hard to undo a bad decision and even harder to remedy a bad decision when you don't think the original decision was bad to begin with!

Scott Edwards

Apparently the ORC is willing to seek input from industry participants as to all phases of the program when implemented with a view to tinkering or outright changing what doesn't work.

Here's a suggestion before we even start; Instead of having it the horse must be Canadian based why not make it Ontario - sired horses are given preference? If you want people to buy Ontario breds and breed to Ontario stallions and race in the province surely this is the way to go. Why penalize consumers of our product based on where they live? Any restricted market place is one looking to fail. The best product we can put on the track should be the goal of any industry mandated program not restricting and limiting competition.
The industry should not be seen as penalizing any owner who in many cases has invested in Ontario sired horses or breeds to Ontario stallions. The best racing in my view is not restricted racing but getting the best horses you can for a race card. The balance between promoting Ontario bred horses without restricting racing opportunities due to location is a tricky one and I understand the aspirations of the goal. Surely the right course is to make preference in eligibility to Ontario Sired Horses thereby encouraging people to invest in the Ontario market place without penalty.

In regard to the preference rules they are in need, but in no way that strict. How about a horse who has last raced outside of Ontario it's last start have a week (7) days added to the actual race day other then stake or added money races.

Aren't people from MI able to race every week there, give a couple weeks off and come to Ontario to race off the better date - the issue when we here in Ontario are unable to do that. I believe that rule would be aggreed by both parties of this topic. Also I thought this was the "Ontario Racing Commison" why should horses from Quebec be exempt from this rule when they are not in our province. If someone sees a fairer rule please say, and on the comment of the "ORC" do we vote them in or how do the heads get there jobs when this rule is just allowing the wealthy horsemen from MI race here as they can stable here.

Gates I appreciate your point but we are not talking about protecting the purse account at Mohawk and Woodbine. Americans and horsemen from other provinces will continue to bring their best horses to Woodbine and take home the money. I have tried to race at Saratoga and Vernon and Blue Bonnets for years and I am fully aware of the protective condition sheets or race office in New York ,Pennsylvania, Quebec, Delaware, Michigan need I go on..........

In reply to by bigdaddy

To Mr Crawford; It was a ten claimer(albeit years ago) that was denied. The reason given was that they had enough for that class. Imagine when the overnight sheet came out that week there were only 7 ten claimers that week. True story. At no time did anyone from Michigan ever have to gain approval to race in Ontario. Of course you can say now when it isn't appealing to race in Michigan that there are only a limited number of races M.O.B.

But if Michigan had slots,and a large number of Canadians or Ohioans or whatever inundated your tracks with entries, can you honestly say that wouldn't change? I have nothing but respect for you and everyone who races horses here and does well. Its a tough business. I think its unfortunate that we even need to consider this. I've never been for restricting anyone. And in a perfect world you wouldn't. However, surely you can understand some of the reasoning behind this proposal.

My experiences betting (30 years) and racing (1 year) in Windsor have always been enjoyable. Any frustration over Michigan horsemen competing for purses has been well-hidden. Thank you for that. While I understand the desire to implement preferences, I believe it will have a negative impact on the long-term health of our industry. Every decision we make that reduces the competitiveness of fields makes us less appealing to bettors.

Horsemen in jurisdictions with slots have the luxury of not worrying too much about handle, but that’s a mistake. Anything bad for the bettor, will eventually come back to haunt us. There are other ways to rebalance purse monies that won’t hurt the quality of racing—such as purse bonuses to Ontario horses. I encourage everyone on both sides of the river to think in terms of our long-term survival—not next week’s paycheck.


The 2010 Forest City Sale average $17399.00 for the 267 horses sold. there were 15 horses bought by US buyers for a average of $26,776.00(almost $10,000.00 higher than the sales average) or a total spent by US buyers of $401,500.00.

We do not only attend your sales but as you can see by the numbers, we spend our dollars. I can only speak for myself when saying that i always reinvest in the Canadian program, and have done so long before slots were in place. Breeders, i would ask you to speak to the proper authorities(Bill Fines) to share your concerns about Canadian preferences.
i do not understand the thinking of Canadian preference, when the whole world wants as many buyers for their products as possible, but Canada wants to limit their pool of buyers. (backward thinking?)

Thank you for your consideration,

Ed Sayfie

In reply to by aeropostale

I started racing a little bit in Canada in about 1997, a lot more steadly from 2000-2011. I never realized that there were borders in harness racing, I thought that both countries could race on either side of the border as needed. It does not seem that there was an issue on "preference" until more purse money came into the picture for Ontario racing.

I am one of Ed & Cheryl Sayfies trainers, and yes I am from Michigan. They and Arman & Marlene Harting invested a lot of money in the Ontario Sired stakes program for this comming year. They hope that they purchased for the future, not just 2 & 3yr old years. When they purchases a yearling at the Forest City sale there were no guide lines saying that they had to have a Canadian based trainer in order to get preference to get their horses raced, especially after their 3yr old year.

We have reinvested in Canada, in 2010 we raced two three year old Ontario sired fillies in every Grass Roots race Canada had to offer. We spent thousands of dollars on things such as fuel, food, hotels, lasix, entry fees, farms to stay at near the tracks that hosted the Grass Roots races. The money their horses made they reinvested in Ontario Sired colts for the 2011 program. If you (the breaders) dont protect your Ontario Sires horses, what is the next thing you will lose (US dollars at the sale)?

My last comment is that when I got my owner-trainer license in Canada I thought that made me as an equal. I was never told that I had to be a resident of Canada in order to have a preference, and that I would only race if there was a post position that needed filled, even with owning a Ontario Sired horses.

Marie St.Charles

I hope you will reconsider your Ontario-based Preference policy because it is pennywise pound foolish, and unlikely to achieve your stated goal of enhancing the economy of Ontario horse racing. The trade off is a little income gained in local stall rent and training bills against a lot of income lost by Ontario tack dealers, veterinarians, yearling sellers and breeding farms, even your own license fees.

You are penalizing owners who live in Michigan but spend hundreds of thousands of dollars breeding and housing their mares in Ontario. In addition, Michigan horsemen feed Canadian hay cubes and bed their horses on Canadian wood shavings. Drive the Michigan horsemen away at your peril. We spend a lot in Ontario.

Also: everyone knows better horses and better-matched fields improve the betting handle. You're turning away good horses that upgrade your racing product so that local horses can race over and over, sometimes as often as twice in a week. The Ontario-based Preference policy is short-sighted, hard on your horses, bad for quality harness-racing and economically unfair, helping Ontario trainers and training centers at the expense of Ontario breeders, stud farms, veterinarians and other vendors patronized by US horsemen.

Thank you for asking for comments.
Karen Greengard

Mr. Bush,
I assume you are referring to me, since I happen to be from Michigan. Not to say it didn't happen, but I don't ever remember a $10,000 claimer being turned down to race at Hazel.

As for being honest, I am on the board of directors of the MHHA and when we met with the track, they were willing to make all races MOB, but the board chose not to do that. A small percentage of the races are listed as MOB and the rest are open to the world.

And yes, we do breed to Ontario sires with the Sire Stakes program in mind, however as I'm sure you know, they are not all competitive in the Sire Stakes nor do they all make it as 2yr olds. We like to know that we still have a place to race the ones that don't make it at 2 or even 3. And yes, a higher class horse can usually get raced anywhere, but again, they are not all high class horses, and the "mediocre horses" need a place to race too. After all the Ontario sired horses now get a 50% allowance on condition races.

And, Mr. Guthrie,I'm sorry about your misfortune,but if there are 3 Americans that took preference over you, It's because they moved their horses to Ontario so that they could get raced!

Keith Crawford

In reply to by alg

I find it ironic that some people from Michigan are complaining about a preference rule. I can remember having to get a horse approved to race at Hazel Park years ago only to be denied. He was a 10 claimer.

Lets be honest too on a couple of points. First, if the situation were reversed, Michigan would have at least as restrictive rules if not more. And it would have been done much sooner. Secondly, if you breed your horse to an Ontario stallion you do so primarily with the Sires Stakes program in mind- not overnights. And lastly, if you have a good horse there will always be a place for you to race at Woodbine or Mohawk or even some upper conditions at the other tracks. There are restrictions in numerous states already (NY,Penn, Indiana, etc.) just as there are in many other business sectors.

have a horse that hasn't raced in 3 weeks now and is AE1 now this week. Races were cancelled 2 weeks ago because of weather and had a judges scratch last week because my wife had sugery. Put him back into go this coming wednesday and hes AE but yet there are 3 Americans in the race.

brendan kelly
When this form of protectionism is tested under the Free Trade Agreement(as it most likely will be)it will have fragmented the industry even more than it is already.

To have the best tracks, which Canada saids they want, you must allow the best horses to race. This will of course help handles and make for all around better racing. i notice last night in the Horseplayers Interactive stake race that the winners of all three divisions were owned by Michigan owners. And that two of the winners shipped in from Michigan that night (helping the Ca economy with fule, hotel and food expenses). If these horses were not allowed to prep for the race i'm sure that the results would have been different. It is very wrong to have a bias, this hurts the betting public and owners who pay stake payments for these events. Any horeman knows that you must have a horse thigh. So not to be allowed to race because of Candian preference is cheeting the betting public, owners, trainers and drivers.
please reconsider the Ca preference.

Ed Sayfie

In reply to by bigdaddy

It seems to me once we try to protect our racing purses everbody gets bent out of shape but forget what their condition sheets say in certain states in USA and did in Quebec.When your horse is only getting in to race every 2 weeks in the summer because of to many horses from USA and QUEBEC youed see our point of view

Does anybody else other than me see the irony of the headline just above this story being of Canadian horses sweeping the Open races @ Yonkers??

I understand that the ORC is trying to help the harness racing industry, and I think that is great, but this new "Canadian based preferance" is doing more harm than good. With the breeding season upon us and this new " preferance" rule in place, I can not advise my owners to continue to breed in Ontario. We spend a lot of money in Ontario but evidently, according to the ORC, it must not be enough! In the states, the sire stake states encourage people to buy and breed in their state.
The ORC has diacouraged all americans from spending any more money in Ontario.

In reply to by bigdaddy

The 'CANADIAN PREFERENCE RULE' makes absolutely no sense and actually does not help the poor breeder of Ontario breds.

PA. and Delaware all encourage their breeders with classes for homebreds and you can see the results at the auctions with high averages. However they do know they can't fill the entry boxes with the homebreds or home state owners so they do have some exceptions to the rules. i.e PA will allow or approve outside owned horses but they must be minimum 10K claimers and have won 5K in last 5 starts. A local commitee is in charge of these approvals.
By doing this they are improving the local talent.

With this new rule I fail to see how we are improving the local talent and I find that the name "canadian preference" is very misleading...you can be American or Australian and be stabled here and you can have N.Z. breds or american breds and still race here ????? There is absolutely nothing Canadian about this rule.

A quicksand test for this rule is in the event that one of the U.S. states ceases to operate harness racing for one reason or another ( like Quebec did ) we will be once again (Ontario) inundated by foreign horses and the province of Ontario will be subsidising out of province horses, owners and horsemen. So you might as well put in a rule that will deal with this NOW.

Barry the only problem with your argument is that 80% of the purse money that is raced for in Ontario comes from the slots machines and 90% of the losses on the slots machines comes from Ontario residents. I would think that the Michigan horsepeople have a tremendous argument that they should be allowed to race their Ontario sired horses without any hinderance or preference rules but to suggest that out of province people who bring out of province bred horses should have equal access to the purse accounts as Ontario residents or horses bred in Ontario is a fallacy.

Not once have I ever heard anyone complain about racing for purse money that an American gambler had lost playing the slots or betting the horses, live or simulcast. To be fair, we should have "Canadian preference" on slot machines and betting windows, so that we get first choice of which machine we want to play, or don't have to wait in line while an American is betting in front of us. Of course,... that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?

Barry Fitzgerald
Dresden, Ontario, Canada

I don't really understand the reason behind this new Canadian based preferance rule. I have supported racing in Ontario since Windsor raceway first opened. You except my money to license me in Ontario. You take taxes out of the money I make in Ontario and I bred 6 mares in Ontario in 2010. When I go to Woodbine or Mohawk, I buy fuel,eat at restaurants,buy tack from the harness shops,and pay a canadian groom to paddock my horses. How is this NOT helping the economy of Ontario?

If it weren't for American horses racing at Windsor, they wouldn't have enough horses to run that meet. We welcomed Canadian trainers and drivers to the US for years. I drove horses for Canadian owners and trainers in Michigan.

Now you are telling me that if my horses aren't based in Ontario, that I will be penalized by preferance of canadian based horses. There are Amarican trainers who haved moved to canada for the Windsor meet and every dime in purse money that they make goes right back to their US owners. How does this help the economy of Ontario?

If this rule continues, I can no longer breed mares in Ontario or buy Ontario sired colts.

This is really sad and is totally unfair!

Keith Crawford

Since when did the orc become the canadian racing commission. The slots were put in for Ontario horseman so it should be Ontario owned given preference

I totally agree with Ed Sayfie's comments. Giving preference to Ontario Based horses will do nothing to help the breeders, in fact it will have just the opposite effect. Last year we bought 2 yearlings at the FCYS. This year with the new preferences, our purchases will be zero. And as Ed has said, why should we be penalized as to where our trainer decides to train from? You can take it one step further, as not only an owner of horses but also a breeder, why would we want to breed to Ontario based sires when like Ed said, we can only race in limited races for their 2 and 3 year old seasons?

I totally understand the concept of "protecting" Ontario and their horse people but to what extent are you willing to go? Quality of horses?

Scott and Barb Edwards, owners and breeders of standardbred horses

I partially agree with Ed because the preference should be Ontario owned or Ontario sired horses which are given preferential treatment. My big problem with this policy is the changing of the name of the racing commission to the Canadian racing commission. At what point did the Ontario government take on federal jurisdictions and responsibilities for the the health of the Canadian racing industry.

It appears to me that the powers to be have decided it is a much easier fight to have a border war to protect the windsor purse pool from the Michigan horsepeople than to have a fight with the Quebec horsepeople at the Ontario border in Ottawa. Ed and his partners should be treated no different than any of the horse people in Quebec who presently take home over 50 percent of the purse pool despite not being residents of Ontario.

The biggest problem the Orc seems to be struggling with recently is the consistency of their policies. The condition sheets throughout Pennsylvania have preference conditions based on Pennsylvania sired or Pennsylvania owned horses, not American preferences because they realize that the slots program is a state subsidized program and not a national program. They are just as worried about a Nj horsemen with a NY bred horse taking advantage of this program than a Canadian with an Ontario bred.

If Ed and his partners and the Quebec horsepeople want to move to Ontario or buy an Ontario sired horse they should be given the same access to the provincially funded purse pool as any resident of Ontario.

Regarding the Candian preference. you stated the reason for this was to enhance the economy of the Ontario horse race industry. i would argue that the opposite would take place. when a US buyer is NO longer in the mix for buying Ontario sired horses this would drive down yearling prices, thus hurting the breeding industry. if only allowed to race at 2 and 3 for a limited time span we are being unfairly penalized and will no longer buy Ontario Sired horses. also when we stake older horses to stake races such as the Horse Players interactive stake, we do not have the same advantage as a Canadian trainer to ready a horse for such an event. This will also effect betting pools and make for a lessor quality of racing.

I would ask that you take another look at this and see if some changes could be made to spark US buying interest of yearlings and for us to continue to race in Ontario. We should not be penalized for a trainer of our choice due to their address. we raced,bred,and paid stakes payments in Ontario before slots were in place, we would love to continue to do so if given a level playing field.

Thank you,
Ed Sayfie and partners