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Whelan, Zammit Discuss Shutdown

Published: January 13, 2021 1:57 pm ET

Last Comment: January 14, 2021 11:17 am ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In a letter sent to the Ontario Harness Horse Association, Ontario Racing's Executive Director Jonathan Zammit indicated that OR is continuing to have dialogue with the provincial government in hopes that racing will resume once the initial 28-day lockdown period concludes.

"We are recommending that a potential return to racing should be treated on an equal basis when compared with other professional sports in the Province that have been allowed to operate under the current lockdown conditions," stated Zammit, noting that "if the lockdown is extended, Ontario Racing is more than willing to examine the possibility of redistributing available purse monies via an equine benefit program, similar to that which was carried out this past spring."

Zammit's statements came in a reply to a letter sent by OHHA to OR earlier this month. The OHHA letter and OR reply follow.


Dear. Mr. Zammit,

I am writing in response to a recent press release posted by Ontario Racing in regards to the temporary closure of standardbred racetracks across Ontario due to Covid-19 restrictions. In the Notice to the Industry it was stated that "Purse monies provided for under the Long-Term Funding Agreement assigned to the cancelled racing days will be added to the remaining scheduled racing days once live racing resumes at affected racetracks in mid to late January. Lost racing days will not be rescheduled."

The Notice makes the assumption that racing will return after the 28-day layoff, however, it may well last longer if the Provincial Government determines that a longer shutdown is required.

The Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA), is requesting that Ontario Racing reconsider this approach and consider distributing the purse money that was allocated for standardbred purses for January 2021 in a manner similar to the process that distributed unused purse funds in the spring of 2020 during the original lockdown. The process has already been developed and implemented to allocate the unused purse funds to horses that were qualified to receive compensation and should be easily replicated once again. According to information that you presented to the Equine Industry Symposium; Ontario Racing paid out $5,539,870 to the owners of 2,729 eligible standardbred horses for the two-month lockdown period in 2020.

Racing participants are stili attempting to recover from the lost racing opportunities and decreased purse money paid out in 2020 and any financial assistance would be more effective now than adding purse money on to future races after it is determined that standardbred racing can safely resume.

All industry participants, Breeders, Owners, Trainers, Grooms, Drivers and all of our agricultural suppliers are desperately struggling to survive and care for our precious equine athletes. If we can’t survive they are helpless. The promise of additional purse money in the future is not a viable solution to our problem right now. This is always the most challenging and costly time of the year for all of our participants, mostly weather related and out of our control. As well there are limited opportunities to race as only three of the 15 racetracks in Ontario are typically operating during this time.

Your help and reconsideration would be greatly appreciated.

I may be reached at 519-770-5184 or by e mail at [email protected] if you would like to discuss the OHHA position.

I look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

James Whelan
President, OHHA


Jim/Brian:

Thank you for your letter dated January 5, 2021. In your letter, you point out that in the release sent by Ontario Racing dated December 26th, 2020, we are assuming that the lockdown will conclude after the 28-day period and racing will resume mid-January. You mention that it could go longer, leaving our Standardbred Horse People with no opportunities to earn purse money and that a relief program should be contemplated.

I want to highlight that in the release, we do allude to the notion that, if the lockdown is extended, Ontario Racing is more than willing to examine the possibility of redistributing available purse monies via an equine benefit program, similar to that which was carried out this past spring. The exact language in the release is noted below where the possibility of an equine benefit program will be considered if the lockdown is extended.

“Should the lockdown extend beyond the current timeframe established by the provincial government, Ontario Racing will consult with industry leaders and industry partners on the next steps, including the possibility (pending approvals) of redistributing purse monies from cancelled race days in the form of horseperson support payments, available to eligible Standardbred horsepersons who have horses in active training in Ontario during the lockdown”.

In addition, potential alternatives have been and will continue to be discussed with the Standardbred Task Force and other industry partners as we await a decision by the Ontario Government regarding the current lockdown, which is expected in the next week or so. Ontario Racing has continued to communicate to the Ontario Government that racing was conducted in a very safe manner this season, with strict safety protocols in place for all participants. Furthermore, we are recommending that a potential return to racing should be treated on an equal basis when compared with other professional sports in the Province that have been allowed to operate under the current lockdown conditions.

Happy to discuss this matter further at your convenience. Thanks.

Best regards,

Jonathan Zammit, Executive Director – Ontario Racing Management Inc.

January 14, 2021 - 11:17 amHi Tim; as a point of

Jeff Porchak SAID...

Hi Tim; as a point of clarification here I'll refer you to the specifics regarding the status of horse racing during the lockdown on the Province of Ontario's website:

Horse racing
- Training only, no races, no members of the public (i.e., spectators)

January 13, 2021 - 2:49 pmFrom: The National Post

Tim Bates SAID...

From: The National Post website...

SPORTS AND RECREATION
— Concert venues and theatres closed, including for drive-in or drive-thru events.
— Some outdoor recreation spaces can open with conditions, including parks, baseball diamonds, batting cages, sports fields, skate parks, horse-racing facilities, trails, toboggan hills, ice rinks and shooting ranges.


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