Ontario OKs Horse Improvement Program

The Ontario Horse Improvement Program for 2009 has been approved.

The Ontario Racing Commission March 25 approved $47.1 million Canadian for the 2009 Horse Improvement Program, which funds stakes, breed development, and equine research for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.

The Thoroughbred program will get $20.9 million, and the Standardbred program $26.2 million, according to an ORC release.

The Thoroughbred program will offer about $6.1 million for Ontario-bred bonuses, $3 million in breeders’ awards, $400,000 in stallion awards, and $5.8 million in purse supplements for Canadian- and Ontario-bred horses and Canadian graded stakes.

“In these uncertain economic times, we’re pleased that we can stay the course and continue to implement the changes to the Thoroughbred Horse Improvement Program that were put forward by the industry last year,” ORC chairman Rod Seiling said in a statement. “As planned, this year’s Ontario-bred purse bonus will be increasing to 15% for Ontario-breds in (open) eligible races in 2009.”

The purse bonus was 10% in 2008, officials said.

Funds for harness racing and breeding will go toward purse increases in various stakes, as well as bonuses for breeders and owners of resident mares.

Harness racing is held year-round in Ontario, and Seiling said so far this year, pari-mutuel handle has increased. Thoroughbred racing begins April 4 at Woodbine for a 167-day meet that runs through Dec. 6. Fort Erie Race Track & Slots opens May 2 for a 78-day meet that ends Oct. 27.

The two Thoroughbred tracks last year combined to pay more than $90 million in purses. Woodbine paid more than $84 million ($506,787 per day for 167 programs), while Fort Erie paid more than $8.5 million ($107,229 for 80 days), according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

The first Woodbine condition book indicates “A” maiden special weight events will go for $69,000 and the “B” class for $38,300. Those numbers are up from 2008.