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Anthony MacDonald's Blog


A clear path to success

Published: March 23, 2016 9:09 am ET

Last Comment: March 23, 2016 5:44 pm ET | 7 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In the last half decade I've been a husband, a father, a driver, a trainer, almost a politician and possibly a bit of an entrepreneur.

My wife Amy and I have built something that we have become exceeding proud of.
Many of you think you know what we have done, but you're only party right. Let me explain.

The idea has always been quite simple:

- Bridge the gap between our industry and the general public by making horse ownership as easy as possible.
- Make our sport inviting to investors, casual owners, and curious people with all different amounts of disposable income by allowing them to simply budget.

Low costs and flat rates combined with hard work, professionalism and a healthy dose of customer service and voilĂ , you have

We have a lot of issues in our industry. So I'll give you my take on what i believe is a sheer common sense fix to most.

1) we have a dwindling fan base.

What can we do?
Well lots, I suppose.

Let me tell you what all of us can do.

At The Stable we see a minimum of five people for every share holder that comes to the barn. If we have 30 owners per group, theoretically we could have 150 new and eager fans for every horse we have for sale.
(This is not the case at the moment but it's trending in that direction in the future)

If our industry aggressively marketed and advertised this concept you could easily achieve these numbers.

That's assuming we had multiple trainers who were willing to put themselves in position to build stables and websites like we just did.

If you had 10 stables with 10 trainers with 25 horses selling fractionally you could introduce over 30,000 people to our game.

But, we have a horse shortage. Correction, most everywhere has a horse shortage.

2) How do we fix or horse shortage.

If you have watched any race cards in Ontario lately you have seen some amazing patchwork taking place.
Our races offices are under tremendous strain.
This shouldn't be the case.

I've often wondered why we don't simply list every horse available to race in Ontario.
A real time look at what inventory we have.

Rip up our condition sheets and build a "tailor-made" condition sheet for each Ontario track. (Or region)

Make it fluid, so when you have shortages in one area send notes out to horsemen who can then in turn look for horses for that class or classes.

Owners need to feel their horses will get in competitive classes consistently and that simply isn't the case at the moment.
The result far too often is they finally get fed up and either sell their horse(s) or simply send their horse(s) to the States.
We have to assume that this investment is gone forever and we simply can't afford to have that happen.
We are literally complicit in our own demise.


3) Our purse structure. (The always present elephant in the room.)

Our smaller tracks simply don't have nearly enough purse money.
Our younger generation of horsemen are finding this game exceedingly difficult to advance in.
Our poor purses and rising costs make it impossible to build a business plan for even the most loyal owner.

I'm certain someone has simply asked the Liberals for more money? let's just assume they declined the request.

With all the wonderful love shown towards the architects of the now infamous "London proposal", I have often been reluctant to speak up about an obvious solution.
Politics had thickened my already tough catch driver skin, so I'm now going to say what you're too scared to.

When we have massive horse shortages, grossly underfilled cards which more times than not are filled with wildly under competitive fields;

Why not have the intestinal fortitude to simply stop and say, Woodbine and London will race one less card a week for the foreseeable future.

I suppose it's because we don't have anyone to speak up and say it.
It might be a good job for a unified horsemen's group?
Does anybody know where we could find one?

Doing this now could easily amount to an extra $150,000 a week (or more) in purses to be spread out.

If we knew we could fill competitive fields, and race for more money doing so, why aren't we?

I know in the past we couldn't give up dates because we would never get them back, but if "Ontario Horse Racing" was set up with a clear mandate from horsemen, and a clear mandate from the government, wouldn't this be the right way to go?

I'm always trying to see the silver lining.
Sometimes a painful optimist.
This is how I see horse racing over the next five years.
This is how I think we can attain it.

We fill full competitive fields now, with good purses, from our hypothetical newly amended race dates.

We open 10 fractional stables over the next two years, with the full marketing and advertising support of the OLG, race tracks, and breeders.

Why would they cooperate? Simple:

1) Fair market prices for breeders for horses.
2) new owners for trainers.
This would means more fans at the tracks, who buy more food, drink more beer, and yes they would likely gamble.
3) more fans at the tracks means more patrons for the OLG also.

This confidence raises demand for supply from breeders.

As we grow our new owner and fan base, we create more revenue.

More revenue created should translate into more purse money.

We would be by no means the first business to rise from the ashes of its former self.
These are attainable goals with attainable results.

You can say there is no information to support this, but you would be wrong.
Extrapolating these numbers from one stable at one time is fair data.

The scalability of the The Stable to fit this blueprint is absolutely possible.

Look at it this way...think of the failed jurisdictions over the past decade or untapped markets.

You could strategically advertise where there are horses but very little Standardbred horse racing.
Michigan, Maryland, Manitoba, England, Ireland, Belgium, Missouri, Washington DC, etc.

Sound crazy?
The Stable has owners in all those places right now.

We don't need a new wagering concept or subliminal messaging to get people to the track.
You need a good product for both for fans, and gamblers.
Allow people to buy horses fractionally as to budget and enjoy their experience.

Initiatives like this are important.
Realizing that doing things the way we have in the past got us directly where we are now.

A swift directional change shouldn't be this hard.
If we work together instead of against each other, we can do much more than just survive.

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

March 23, 2016 - 5:44 pmAnthony You speak of everyone

Ted Decker SAID...

You speak of everyone working together. Do you ever wonder why you are the only blog that consistently talks about racings future? Some of your ideas I belive are valid and possible.Others not so much. The gap between the government,race track owners and the horsepeople is so vast that a consensus is no where near fruition. Fractional ownership may work on some scale but I don't believe it is the saviour of the business. Too many people talk the talk but don't walk the walk. The industry is full of them. Let someone else figure it out. Problem is time is running out and when it does, cutting cards, racing for more money, tailor made condition sheets and fractional ownership will mean nothing.

March 23, 2016 - 5:30 pmLet's not forget the life

John Hayes SAID...

Let's not forget the life blood($) of this industry and that is the bettor. I personally would like to see the ability for the general public to use the provincial lottery terminals to place the more "exotic" type bets on the race card (High 5/pentafecta/pick 4 etc.) and drive the carryovers to unprecedented heights. With marketing support from the OLG and other provincial lottery groups betting handle and general public interest would increase significantly.

I completely understand that betting is under federal jurisdiction and laws would have to be changed...has anyone or any group lobbied for these changes?

March 23, 2016 - 5:21 pmCut the purses at WEG and

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Cut the purses at WEG and divert the money to the B tracks.

March 23, 2016 - 4:38 pmA lot of very valuable

brad snel SAID...

A lot of very valuable information and insight into the business of the harness racing industry at large. A mention was made in regards of the OLG and attendance where they seem to me to totally ignore the horse racing business and totally rely on their slots and gaming machines to initiate revenue. They seem to forget that a lot of people who are attending the races also take in the casinos that are readily available at those racetracks. A lot of people that I have talked to have dumped hundreds into the machines and come out with nothing. I have suggested that maybe take that 20, 10, 50 or whatever to the racetrack that is usually located in the same building. They say they haven't been to the races band would like to try but there is no real promotion outlet to inform them what to do or walk through the process. To me as an owner, and sometimes bettor, the OLG doesn't seem to work in collaboration with the horse people and stays a separate entity for some strange reason. I thought they were instructed to "integrate with horse racing"! I don't know whether it's an attitude problem of the OLG to gain partnership with the harness industry to create a mutual and fair playing field to share the proceeds or what it is. With it getting harder to purchase yearlings because of supply and demand, the harness racing industry is starting to initiate a new strategy through fractional ownership like the McDonald's at their stable, This is the way of the future in order to attract new people into the game and not to scare them off with inadequate information and unexpected costs. Why is there no new drivers and trainers coming onto the scene in the last few years? It's getting harder to make a living through deflated purses and racing horses way beyond their class in order to make a respectable living. The harness racing industry is going through a change for the better with new personnel in various departments with new visions and perspectives on what needs to be done in order for this industry to thrive. Like an old Bob Dylan song goes, A Change Is Going To Come... and none to soon.

March 23, 2016 - 10:59 amIt is easy to say we need to

It is easy to say we need to race for more money but that statement has a very ugly truth to it.
The minimal purses raced for at the B tracks is the primary reason for the shortage of horses we have now and a problem that will even worsen in near time.
I get many calls asking to price horses that I am racing. I have a very simple answer for any Canadian buyer. The truth is us Canadians are the sellers and the Americans are the buyers. Canadian buyers cannot compete with an US buyer because of the purse structures. The same calibre of B track horse in Canada races for about a third of the money the B tracks in the US races for when you take into account the exchange rate on currency.
Thus is the simple math that the Americans can justify a higher purchase price
The purse structure at our B tracks also reduces the desire to want to invest money into such a potentially negative cash flow scenario for us owners. An average of $5,600 per race on a B track card divided by 8 or 9 horses in that race would suggest that we as owners are racing for an average of less that $700 per start x 3 starts a month leaves us well short of what us as owners need to make to pay our bills. When the Grassroots track start up, this financial equation gets doubly worse.
I would like to see those who make our purse allocations invest their money into this robust and attainable business

A secondary reason for the horse shortage is the half mile racing. There is nothing worse for a horse to go around four turns in a circle week in and week out. We need more 5/8s tracks for the longevity of the horse to help alleviate the horse shortage we are encountering. The inside 3 post positions on a half mile win such a high percentage of the races that the betting public basically ignores the outside 2 or 3 post positions

As much as I would hate to see less race cards, I have to agree with Anthony that we need to race for more money even at the expense of less cards. A potential and reasonable expectation of making money will increase owners and ownership groups back into the Canadian racing industry

March 23, 2016 - 10:15 amTrainers/owners/drivers race

terry gudz SAID...

Trainers/owners/drivers race where its economically feasible in a competitive market and to suggest that London and Woodbine cut a card per week only will create more disharmony in a already fragile industry that tends to agree to disagree in all aspects.

March 23, 2016 - 10:08 amVery interesting Mr.

john smith SAID...

Very interesting Mr. MacDonald.

I posted a response to your 2013 blog on
the concern of how to bring back the fan base. I wrote a very detailed
proposal in the hopes of covering all aspects of the industry to spark
more and more interest. I received no reply and in fact I contacted you
on a number of occasions to please respond with your thoughts.
Perhaps listening and replying to ideas would bring everyone in on the needs.
Remember no one person has all the answers. It's our industry so let's try
seeking to understand and then to be understood.

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