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Anthony MacDonald's Blog


You're Letting Your Industry Down

Published: February 12, 2016 8:56 am ET

Last Comment: February 16, 2016 2:41 pm ET | 23 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Not much surprises me about this industry anymore.
We have all come a long way since the slots program disappeared.

Not many ups, and way to many downs have made it a tough road for most of us.
But through it all, we as an industry somehow find a way to help each other when we are down and out.

So why can't we help ourselves?

I went to Mohawk on Wednesday for the meeting with ORA (the new Ontario Racing Association headed by John Snobelen)
I rushed up the stairs, and walked into a mostly empty room.
200 chairs set up, with a maximum of 65 people present.

Whether you like John Snobelen or not, he is one of the only people who has a direct connection to our province's leader in regards to the horse racing file.
Whether you believe him, or think he's full of it, why not show up?
If for nothing else, just to show solidarity?

What message do we send to the government, when after all we have been through, we don't care enough to voice our concerns about how unclear our future is?

I left Mohawk more angry and upset with horse racing than any member of government.

To the people who didn't care to come, you're letting down your industry.
To the people who forgot or couldn't make it, or simply didn't see the reminder of the meeting, I hope you show up to the next one.
To the people who came from all over the map, spoke, and made sure that people were represented, thank you very much.

Not just from me, but from the people who have been forced out of our industry.
Mostly unemployed, doing something they never thought they would; that is, working with something other than horses.

What do you think the government would do if they thought our industry in the south-western Ontario was represented by 65 people?
Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan thought our numbers were weak, and look what they did.

Not very often I'm pessimistic, but how do you justify the government caring if we don't?
Don't worry about forming consensus on a proposal to close three tracks, would you care if they decided to close all of them?

Look at Pennsylvania this fall, or Florida right now.
The end is always near, and hard work is required from time to time.
You're not lazy people so stop acting like it.

You think your voice doesn't matter? Or you have nothing to say?

You're wrong, your attendance speaks volumes. Unfortunately so does your lack of attendance.

Anthony MacDonald

The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

February 16, 2016 - 2:41 pmMr Adler..... if ANY

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Adler..... if ANY industry, not just horse people, lets say, rice grower, cheetos makers, or snare drum makers, is not able to sustain itself in the area that it is in, why on earth should the government maintain investing in that area. What makes horse people more important than the bar business, or the pop manufacturers, or the pasta makers or the cheese and wine makers that cant sustain themselves in a certain area?

Outside the GTA, they are not able to make professional baseball run as they do in Toronto.

im a taxpayer, and if any industry cant survive, and is not essential to the survival of humans, then it better make it on its own merit, or be gone.

I love horse racing, but it is not "essential" to life. Horse racing only affects less than 1% of the population of Ontario, but you are acting like without it, this province would disappear, or farmers would not be able to succeed. MANY farmers are able to get by and have no ties to horse racing in any way shape or form.

For someone that has/had a huge voice in this sport in Ontario...... your attitude is partly why horseman are where they are.

Could you imagine if all companies had the mentality that you do?

February 16, 2016 - 2:13 pmI agree 100% with what you

I agree 100% with what you said about not going because of laziness...and we do need to have our voice heard....I have written the letters..signed the petitions...even Talked to Mr Snoblen personally when i ran into him at a local fair....I even Managed to get myself Physically removed from an olg meeting because apparently the BS coming from the stage was a bit too much for me to stomach....and my mouth was a little too big!! :)...and as i said the intent of your original statement was correct....I guess my point was us little guys feel Marginalized by both sides a lot of times...I have been involved in the sport since birth and have no intentions of leaving it.....

February 15, 2016 - 7:39 pmMr Hill You're telling Mr

Ted Decker SAID...

Mr Hill
You're telling Mr MacDonald that he is wrong for being frustrated. I'm frustrated with your comment regarding the no trust in the government and that our best bet is to wait for an election and then put your trust in the new government. You and many others have and are waiting for someone else to fix all the issues. You had better get on Anthony's side before its too late. At least he is doing something.

February 15, 2016 - 5:05 pmGreat idea Dean.

Great idea Dean.

February 15, 2016 - 12:00 pmRefocus people! We are coming

Marty Adler SAID...

Refocus people!
We are coming up on 4 years since slots ended - the industry is half what it was in 2012. The Liberal decision makers are gone. (Mcginty, Duncan, McMeekin) The new-age framers of the industry (Snobelen, Buchanan, and the OLG) continue to scratch their heads for a solution, and "frustration" is the word of the day.
The solutions offered up are unreasonable, from marching on Queens Park to keeping only those tracks alive that are within a 100 mile radius of the GTA.
Time to think outside the box and add a fresh piece of Juicy Fruit to the wad of stale gum in our mouths.
Bring the Ministry of Agriculture into the conversation! The late Eugene Whelan (Fed Min of Ag) told me agriculture helped build Northlands and save the Calgary Stampede.
Horseman in Ontario are, farmers, rural, self employed, and represent non automotive, industrial or tech jobs.
When a farmer in Ont has a bad year, there is help
The Ministry of Agriculture was invisible in 2012 - it' time to push them to step up to the plate!

February 15, 2016 - 6:13 amTrue to form Mr Hill you and

Ted Decker SAID...

True to form Mr Hill you and most others, waiting for some one else to fix the problems.

February 13, 2016 - 6:21 pmHmmm. Here's a crazy idea.

Dean Nixon SAID...

Hmmm. Here's a crazy idea. Tonight is a gathering of many prominent members of the harness racing industry (the O'Brien Awards). Trainers with large stables, owners with large investment, and breeders who have a strong influence. Why not incorporate the two events. Pre-emp the awards with the meeting. Then celebrate after. If anyone has a vested interest it's tonight's participants.

February 13, 2016 - 1:19 pmWell Clayton, I'm very aware

Well Clayton,

I'm very aware people have other jobs.
People have obligations, and some, although not present physically, were very aware and concerned about dialogue and the outcome of it.

I hear the anger in people's voices, the confusion and frustration as to why this process has taken so long.

What I don't understand is why would you not make sure your questions were asked and answered when given the chance?
Why allow your future to possibly slip away?

Call a spade a spade.
IF you didn't come and you could have......... You're lazy.
I'm not talking about the people who were working, sick, or even the people who forgot.

The people who were sleeping or watching sports center, or couldn't be bothered.... It must be nice to have job security.
We could lose everything, literally, and you don't care?

It isn't up to me, or any of the other 64 people that attended to ensure our fight for your future.
It's up to all of us.
We need to be strong, always.
We need to be ready to fight for our industry, always.
We need to remember what happened, always.

A day will be coming in the future that will fall under the heading "remember when".
Please don't let it be "remember when" no one cared and the government decided that day, that we didn't matter.

All of us matter, our future matters, and yes, attendance matters.

February 13, 2016 - 12:26 pmWow.... these complaints are

Will Yamakva SAID...


these complaints are astonishing.

"it was not close enough for me"
"I didnt go, but tell me everything that happened"
"The timing was not right for me"

If my investment and career and livelihood was on the line, you can bet that I would be there, to support and soak in everything. I would be asking the questions of the people that have control over the future of the industry that I am in.

It is not Snobelen's job to go to paddocks and training centers, no more than it is yours to stand in the house and beg others to get slots for you. Mr Bossie.... your post, and how you want everything done for you and you believe that just dealing with your horses is the extent of your contribution to the progression of the sport, is why the sport is where it is.

I am so glad the rest of the sports world does not act like this and beg the government for money. In real sports, the athletes all get together and meet, and they have a rep, and that rep meets with the other team reps, and those reps meet with the owners and GMS and figure this out as a collective on things like advertising, revenue sharing, health and safety concerns and many others. It appears while Anthony wants that, Mr Bossie does not.

This sport is going to be WEG, Georgian, Grand River, Western Fair, and Rideau and that is it. Everyone else appears to stand with the hand out waiting for others to fix this industry.

Go get em, Anthony.

February 13, 2016 - 10:32 amAnthony your frustration is

John Hill SAID...

Anthony your frustration is understandable but misdirected as we are being setup to fail. Scheduling was a big factor in the lack of attendance as well as people's lack of belief in the government. We have had thousands of people at Queens Park with support from many MPP's from both opposition parties in attendance and both parties made motions on the floor to help the industry only to fall upon deaf ears. What makes us think now that the liberals now have a majority they have changed their minds ? Mr Snoblen said the government was not interested in a single voice from the horsemen for a reason, they don't care, they are only trying to save face with these lip service meetings. Did any new information come out of these meetings, did anyone feel better when they left that when they came ? I think the number one goal of horsemen at this point should be to somehow have one voice as the governments divide and conquer strategy is working beautifully. Number two is to get track owners who truly want to grow the industry and not depend on OLG to help us, the competition. It seems to me at this point our best hope lies with the next elected provincial government to help what is left of the the industry at the time. Sorry to be so pessimistic but thank you so much for your passion and dedication to the horsemen.

February 12, 2016 - 11:31 pmWell I would not say that the

Well I would not say that the sentiment of this blog is wrong...because in spirit it is correct. As an Owner Trainer Driver Breeder in Ontario... who works a full time job as well to help keep this business alive....a middle of the day weekday meeting isn`t really all that convenient..... I was discussing this fact with a friend of mine who is in exactly same situation. We have to take a day off work to go train somewhere because there is nowhere open to train on weekends. I don`t know how many days most people get off work before they get fired but I already use all my holidays just for the horses....also the fact that the meeting was at Mohawk... here again how far from the tracks and people most affected. Hopefully some future meetings will be scheduled at times and locations a little more inclusive to some of us smaller but no less passionate about the business horsemen.

February 12, 2016 - 9:36 pmSo, now that the meetings

Rick Bossie SAID...

So, now that the meetings have been held and we slide into the typical negativity of lack of attendance. Seriously? Why not take the information from the people that did attend and do something with it. Make it worth everybody's while to attend these meetings, not rant and rave about who did and who didn't attend. The attendance and participation on these issues and meetings would improve if the majority felt something was actually coming out of them. Perhaps Snobelen needs to do the job he was elected to do and the job he gets paid to do and show up where the horse people are not the other way around. Has anybody (yourself included Anthony) taken the initiative to brief horse people as to the actions that will result from these successful meetings???? What actions are required from Snobelen and by what date are they expected to be completed by??? Are the minutes posted any where for review?? Sorry but your frustration are not the actions of someone I would want leading us Anthony, your actions in my opinion are those of a typical politician. A politician that requires people jumping up and down and storming parliament demanding answers before they will actually get their job done. We are doing our job, are they doing theirs?? As an industry we have representatives that should be diligent in gaining the opinion of the horsepeople and presenting the opinions at these meetings. Sorry Anthony but solidarity is important but so is action on these issues. I am yet to see Snobelen making his way through a busy paddock or at a major training center, doing his job. He should be doing his part to spread the word and gain information.

February 12, 2016 - 7:47 pmKudos to you Anthony for

Mark Beaven SAID...

Kudos to you Anthony for dedicating your latest blog to highlight this issue. I agree with you in the fact that it would have been better to see more people out to the meetings. As one that tries to see the positive side was reassuring that the horsemen and women in attendance at both meetings were engaged and put forth many good comments and questions. We are all passionate about our industry and we need to put that passion towards working with all our partners and improving our future.

February 12, 2016 - 4:08 pmRobin, you asked what else we

Robin, you asked what else we could have done? perhaps one of the answers was could we have asked ourselves from an attendance perspective if we were set up to fail. As per my earlier comment when the news of these meetings was first posted on Standardbred Canada, how as an owner who really cares about this Industry but has a full time job show their support when both meetings were scheduled for the middle of the afternoon during the week. I need my day job in order to support the horses that I race because they don't support themselves. I attended the rallies at Queen's Park only because I could take my lunch hour and via a short subway ride be on the ground at Queen's Park. I appreciate that the timing of these meetings was likely better for participants who are responsible for the care and racing of the horses but it might have left out at least some of the most important part of the puzzle - those of us who contribute the capital to put the horses in the barn and on the track in the first place. I guess I sound like I am trying to divide us into groups which is what Michael in his comments was trying to ensure did not happen. That is not my intention. However, it is frustrating to want to help those who really need the Industry (trainers, grooms, etc)and not be able to.

February 12, 2016 - 3:40 pmNail 1 foot to the ground,

Marty Adler SAID...

Nail 1 foot to the ground, and try walking forward, and you will find yourself going round in circles!

It sickened me yesterday watching Dwight Duncan as the interim head of the new Gordie Howe bridge lead cyclist groups to believe that there could be a bike lane, crossing the border, when he knows it is ILLEGAL!

Similarly, the industry has been led along by government reps who are merely stalling till the industry loses enough players to become manageable. Remember, when the lucrative slots came in, and costs escalated, the budget for the ORC jumped from $2.3 million to $13m. Slot revenue is gone, but costs remain high.

There are already more members of the OLG on the sunshine list than drivers in Ontario.

WEG won't rock any boats as they have their own agenda, while the remaining tracks, with no clout will fight for the bones - bones with very little meat on them.

The rest of the world is oblivious to the plight of the horseman.

A new tact is in order, and here it is: let the OLG continue to struggle with the burden of what to do with racing, and look to come in the back door with "a" minister of agriculture, which, after all, is what really we are all about!


February 12, 2016 - 3:00 pmIf the meetings were called

Sheldon Rose SAID...

If the meetings were called on a race day just before the races, the attendance would have been significantly higher. Why do you think they were scheduled at those times and locations?

February 12, 2016 - 12:57 pmAnthony.... I think we have

Will Yamakva SAID...

Anthony.... I think we have had this conversation before. It is going to take an individual with the real want and power to get this going.

Start a "drivers group". You are the faces of the game. We all see you.

It takes LEADERSHIP to LEAD THIS SHIP, and if you really put your mind to it, you have what it takes to lead. You tried this at the political level, and you show it here on these blogs you post. It starts with you.

I swore I would never go back to the harness races again, but it turns out that I will be there later this month, and would LOVE to see you have something organized by the men that drive at that track. You do not need a "union" per se, but an organized group that works in conjunction with the track, and you guys get the ball rolling.

February 12, 2016 - 12:11 pmI’m sure that I speak for all

Robin Morley SAID...

I’m sure that I speak for all of us who were at the meeting at Mohawk on Wednesday, that we all feel the same, Anthony. Thank you so very much for speaking on our behalf. It was very disappointing to be in attendance where a small group tried so hard to get the message across to the government that we are very concerned about our industry and we don’t want it to die a slow death. But a small group speaking on behalf of 50,000 plus people in the Standardbred business in Ontario doesn’t do much to convince that we are serious and we plan to fight to preserve our livelihood.
But it isn’t productive to sit back and pat ourselves on the back for just being at the meeting. Today, we are thinking of what else we might have done to encourage others to come and not necessarily make their voices heard but just be there in support. We each could have called, convinced, cajoled another five or ten people in the business to come. We could have offered others a ride; we could have hired a bus to bring all those in our area who might not have otherwise traveled the 75 miles to Mohawk. We could have initiated a telephone chain to call all the standardbred breeders, owners, trainers, drivers, grooms, veterinarians, blacksmiths, feed companies, transportation vendors (truck & horse trailers) etc. in our area to remind them how crucial this meeting really was and to convince them that their attendance was of the utmost importance. But we didn’t. And now we wish we would have! We are sincerely hoping that we get another opportunity to meet with Mr. Snobelen and to show him and the Ontario Government that we are concerned but tenacious in our resolve to keep the business we love from deteriorating even further. Perhaps we have to borrow a page from the American Political playbook and get our ground game going! Imagine the room full of people we could have had if all of us had tried just a little bit harder.

February 12, 2016 - 11:34 amSo right on the money

So right on the money Anthony. I have always been amazed how well our industry helps out those in need, if someone gets hurt or sick. The fire... look how people stepped up in the industry. When it comes to fighting for horseracing it is like everyone sits back and does nothing. I did not attend the meeting but I can actually say I knew nothing of it... I did know of the London meeting. Having said that I think it is the 1st time I have not attended something that is to help with my industry. I do not know what the answer is to get everyone on the same page. My guess is when there is no longer horse racing people will wish if only we could have done something. Ronda Markle

February 12, 2016 - 11:21 amI agree that more horse

I agree that more horse people should be present at those meetings, but to be fair, I don't believe those same people think that their voices are being heard and the voices are so different from one horsepeople to another.

If you think about the Industry and how it should be structured going forward, most of the horse people have different views based on their needs and not what is best for the Industry. The second we post or talk about making changes, some others complain about the change.

Not all horse people should be going to those meeting and show the powers above HOW DIVIDED WE ARE. I would recommend that a meeting take place and some representatives from each side of our business should be represented. (breeders/owners/trainers/vets etc...) We should elect one or two people from each part of the industry and form a committee.

Once that committee is formed, agree on a structure/plan of action, we believe is best for OUR INDUSTRY, (not one trainer cause they live closer to any tracks, not a trainer that trains on a small track that should be closed cause they want to keep there horses running even if the purses are 10 times higher than the betting intake)

This same committee should then be mandated to meet with ORA and report the progress to its members using this website. A lot of progress have been made since the abolition of the SARP program, but sometimes we kill ourselves being divided for our own purpose and gain. We need to do what's best for our sport, before it is decided by government people that know little about it. For that we need to be strong and united!!!

February 12, 2016 - 9:42 amI couldn't agree more with

brad snel SAID...

I couldn't agree more with this statement from Anthony Mcdonald, Just like around election time, people complain and criticize government but are too lazy to get up from the couch, lay down the converter and actually make your way out of the door to initiate change.

With a recent inquiry at the Meadowlands about alleged positive tests from 2 prominent trainers and the outcome of past violations of this drug by these 2 trainers the racing business needs more support than ever.

People initiate change, and if you cant get away from that Big Mac or tv to actually make a change in the industry we are all in jeopardy.

February 12, 2016 - 9:22 amWell said Anthony we need to

Lorne House SAID...

Well said Anthony we need to show up and show we care. London turn out was a bit better but I thought there should have been at least double the attendance. We need to help ourselves here fellow horse people.. No matter what your personal opinions are for our future We need a voice!

February 12, 2016 - 9:17 am150 people cared at western

terry gudz SAID...

150 people cared at western fair/ however no information sheets were given out and the fact that the new ORA might have a representative from the standardbreds group speaks loudly about the consolidation of track operations and a rubber stamping from the liberals!

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