Ontario Extends Horse Improvement Program

The Ontario government is extending its support of the Horse Improvement Program into 2015 with up to $30 million for the breeding industry in the province, it was announced June 15.

Breeders have been shaken in the wake of the government's decision to end the slots-at-racetracks program this year. The funds from the program support both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, and equals the level of funding provided this year.

It is used to supplement purses on restricted races, bonuses for Ontario-breds in open events, owner and breeder awards, and for equine breeding research.

According to a statement from the government, the continuation of the program "is in keeping with the recommendations made by the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel after hundreds of hours of consultation with stakeholders." The panel was created to provide recommendations to the government following the curtailment of the slots-at-racetrack program.

"Continuing to invest in this forward-looking program gives the horse racing and breeding industry confidence there will be a future here for Ontario-bred racehorses," said Kathleen Wynne, premier and minister of agriculture and food.

Said John Snobelen, a member of the transition panel: "This is great news for Ontario-bred weanlings and yearlings, and a strong encouragement for breeders in rural Ontario who are building on a legacy of great racehorses."

The statement noted that the government is providing transition funding for 12 racetracks. They include Woodbine and Fort Erie.

Starting June 21, it said, the transition panel will begin consultations with stakeholders on creating a more sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario, including integrating horse racing into the province’s gaming strategy. The final plan is due in October 2013.

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