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At its meeting on Wednesday, the Governing Board of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) approved the $26.2 million(C) budget for the 2009 Standardbred Horse Improvement Program. This approval provides for increased purses for the 2009 Ontario Sires Stakes Program (OSS), future enhancements to the rewards program for Ontario Bred racehorses, and the establishment of 2011 Ontario Sired awards payable to breeders of successful racehorses competing in the OSS.


In announcing the 2009 Program, ORC Chair Rod Seiling noted the importance of maintaining incentives for the purchase of quality Ontario racehorses. “The Horse Improvement Program is designed to encourage increased production of quality Ontario Bred and Ontario Sired racehorses, and we are committed to maintaining Program incentives to encourage the purchase of our quality racing stock.”


Highlights of the 2009 program include:


An increase in purses for Grassroots Divisions of the OSS program to $24,000 per division; an increase in purses for Grassroots Finals to $100,000 per final; an increase in purses for Gold Finals to $130,000, and continuation of the Breeder Rewards and Ontario Breeder Bonus for 2009 (and 2010).


In part, changes to the purse allocations for the Ontario Sires Stakes program have been funded through the elimination of the Gold Consolation Races for 2009. “Participation in the Gold Consolation program in 2008 was much lower than expected,” said Seiling. “In the current business climate we felt that the available funds in the Standardbred Improvement Program budget would be better spent on increasing purses for the OSS finals and Grassroots Divisions to encourage the purchase of Ontario Sired horses and expand participation in the Program.” 


The Ontario Resident Mare Program has started this year for foals of 2009. To qualify as an Ontario Resident Mare, a mare must be resident in the province of Ontario for 180 consecutive days surrounding date of foaling in Ontario. Offspring of Ontario Resident incentives attached to their Ontario Bred status. For 2009, mare registration will remain open until September 1, 2009. Further details on this program will be released over the next few weeks.


The ORC has announced that Ontario Sired Rewards will be continued under the OSS Program. This change is in response to industry feedback on last year’s announcements that would have eliminated rewards for foals out of any mares that did not meet the mare residency requirements. The Program will now reward mare owners under two separate programs, one, for keeping their mares in the province as Ontario Resident Mares (Ontario Bred Rewards), and the second, for using Ontario Sires in their breeding programs (Ontario Sired Rewards). It should be noted that a mare owner may be eligible to receive both rewards if all requirements are met. Starting in 2011, Rewards will be available as follows:


OntarioSired Rewards:

Breeders of OSS purse winning horses will be eligible for rewards equal to 5% of the horse’s total purse earnings in OSS races.


OntarioBred Rewards:

Ontario Breds racing in the 2011 OSS program (foals of 2009 out of Ontario Resident Mares) will earn rewards for mare owners equal to 15% of the horse’s total purse earnings in OSS races.


Ontario Breds racing in 2011 will also be eligible for rewards on purses won in selected “Open” stakes races in Ontario.


“While the Standardbred Industry has experienced declines in wagering in recent years, we are pleased to see an increase in wagering in the first part of this year” said Seiling. “We are committed to an annual review and planning process for the Standardbred Improvement Program that works with industry to realize the maximum possible benefit for the breeding sector from Program expenditures. Investment in the Ontario breeding sector is key to the success of the Ontario Racing Industry, and the Standardbred Improvement Program is the mechanism by which we can encourage investment in the sector. That is the basis on which we are moving forward with this important program for Ontario.”


Ontario’s Horse Improvement Program contributes to the health and sustainability of the horse racing and breeding community in the province, through a series of programs such as funding of stakes races, the Ontario Sires Stakes, incentives to owners and breeders, and equine research. The ORC is entrusted by the government and the industry to oversee and administer the program. (ORC)