Tom Bain, Mark Williams and Paul Branton at the Leamington Raceway Announcement. June 30, 2014. (Photo by Trevor Thompson)

Local Horse Racing Gets Short-Term Committment

Those involved in the local harness horse racing industry are feeling a little bit better about their future in the region after meetings held earlier this month.

Tom Bain with the Lakeshore Horse Raceway Association was given assurances race contracts would be honoured despite an impending shake-up in the industry.

“To know that we’ve got three years, we can use those three years to show that we’ll be sustainable and we should be left open after that,” says Bain. “It certainly is a relief when you think you’re going to be on your final year of racing.”

Meetings held in London and Milton on February 9 and 10 respectively brought the industry together to discuss its future. The Lakeshore group hosted a representative of Ontario Lottery and Gaming on February 11 for a tour of the Leamington Raceway.

Much of the concern from local groups comes after a proposal from horse trainers in London called for the closure of tracks in Leamington, Dresden and Sarnia as part of a reform of the industry.

Bain says he has been assured that stakeholders in southwestern Ontario will get a say in how the industry moves forward and will be able to counter the London proposal, but he’s still worried their voices may be drowned out.

“The horsemen in the Toronto and London area far out number the horsemen in southwestern Ontario so, if it’s based on sheer numbers we could be in a lot of trouble,” says Bain.

Regulators are looking at potential new rules for the industry and a new governing model with the Ontario Racing Commission set to become defunct as of April 1.