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Willmot Comments On Ceasing Negotiations

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Published: January 9, 2009 9:47 am ET

Last Comment: January 12, 2009 1:03 pm ET | 30 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The Woodbine Entertainment Group's Thursday announcement regarding cutting off negotiations with OHHA has resulted in a story about the issue in today's edition of The Toronto Star.

"We have absolutely kept the entry box open, the horsemen have never stopped entering and racing and we have assured the horsemen of no changes in any of the financial arrangements," David Willmot, WEG chairman and CEO, was quoted as saying in the article by Dave Perkins. "The last thing we want is to prevent anyone from earning a living. The only thing that has changed is that we do not want to have further negotiations with OHHA.

"We have no legal obligation to be under contract with OHHA. It is not a union. It is an association representing private contractors. We have been under contract [with OHHA] for many years, but that looks like it is coming to an end."

Willmot said that OHHA executives sending letters to Ontario MPPs, asking them to get involved in the dispute by withholding revenues from provincially licensed slot machines, was the last straw before calling off negotiations.

To read The Toronto Star article in its entirety, click here.

(With files from The Toronto Star)

January 12, 2009 - 1:03 pmSomething must be going on

Roy C Jones (not verified) SAID...

Something must be going on for WEG to make a stand against OHHA, if the ORC are not doing their job may be JOE PUBLIC will and we will all suffer. As far as i can see to many organizations are trying to run horse racing.Why dont we all leave it to the people who own the tracks. If the track owners have set down rules and regulations to follow , then if you dont like it take up knitting.

January 11, 2009 - 4:47 pmcongratulations to the WEG

jph (not verified) SAID...

congratulations to the WEG for taking a stand that is truly in the best interests of horse racing. shame on the "leaders" of the OHHA for trying to defend those who would destroy our industry. if you want to lead, either lead in a positive direction or get out of the way and let someone more sensible take over. as an longtime owner, i only wish other jurisdictions had the guts to ban cheaters and crooks.

January 10, 2009 - 7:59 pmcommit the crime do the time

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

commit the crime do the time why should a trainer or owner who has been convicted of an offence did their suspension,be punished after they have paid their dues.What gives weg the right to supress these people from making a living.I think the private property act goes out the window when people (HORSEMEN) are on their property (WEG)TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING .If we dont have ohha negotiate for us soon we will have no say WEG racing may become invite only ,think of the future people not the present we cant see the trees for the forest.

January 10, 2009 - 7:17 pmI dont agree with the way

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I dont agree with the way OHHA does some things, but what member agrees with everything their group or association does? Definitely the ORC is largely responsible for this crisis. For as brave as the trainers, grooms and drivers are for sitting behind some of these animals, they sure are chicken when it comes to protecting their own interests.

January 10, 2009 - 4:56 pmWhy are some people worried

PEI Guy (not verified) SAID...

Why are some people worried about being banned for cheating the betters who provide the revenue for the sport?

This debate is rediculous.

You cheat your out.

Thank yopu WEG!

January 10, 2009 - 2:09 pmThat is NOT TRUE. The

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

That is NOT TRUE. The private property stance at WEG allows them to ban anyone, at anytime.
The ORC deals with positives and punishment. When the sentence is served, the offending trainer is given back his ability to race. WEG is imposing further punishment, thus making themselves a regulator.
Furthermore, WEG has and will ban trainers who do not have positives pending. They may also put trainers or horses into retention who do not have positives pending. Just ask Coleman, Montini, Clements, etc.
WEG is able to opreate on their own "Guilty until we say otherwise" scale of justice. Just wait until you, or your trainer is punished by WEG for suspicion of some wrongdoing. Then come back here and tell us how you applaud WEG.

January 10, 2009 - 10:18 amway to go WEG! u have my

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

way to go WEG! u have my support in attempting to weed out the cheaters. its about time someone stood up and started to enforce your trespass rights to keep them off the track! that is the only way you are going to be able to come close to cleaning this up. lets hope the ORC starts to be pro-active in disciplining drivers for questionable drives(and there are lots of them) and in the hiring practise for judges and/or disciplining them as well! it takes a joint effort to even start to make a dent in this! Good luck!

January 10, 2009 - 7:22 amI think your point regarding

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I think your point regarding OHHA not negotiating at any of the tracks is valid. You don't have to be an OHHA member so when my horses that I own race in London or Windsor, OHHA isn't representing me. My trainer is not an OHHA member so they are not representing him if he gets into trouble so I would rather they don't negotiate for me. When I was working at Ford I had to be a union member, the UAW at the time now the CAW negotiated and represented me. How can OHHA think they represent the horsemen without complete and mandatory membership???
How many guys coming from the US at the B tracks to race are OHHA members??
This industry needs to have some order and not be a free for all in order to maintain a strong stance as horsepeople.

If the Ontario government is reviewing the contracts, we had all better hang on for some changes since they recently announced that their casinos have lost money this year. Wise up folks, the idea of the slots being an endless money pit and that they belong to the horsemen is a big mistake. The government like the good lord giveth and we all know that they taketh. The economy is bad all over adn here we are fighting over what is basically our government bailout package that was given years ago. GM has been told if the UAW stikes, the US government is pulling the pin, don't be so sure it couldn't happen to us. There are a LOT of six figure earning drivers, trainers in this business right now. Pretty tough to do when the purses are cut down to the pre-slot day level.....

January 10, 2009 - 7:10 amIt is time that OHHA and Mr.

P McIntosh (not verified) SAID...

It is time that OHHA and Mr. Whelan to stop fighting with the racetracks that are putting on a good, honest show for the horse players and horse people and look a little further into Windsor Raceway and racetracks like them who could care less about it's horsepeople, who are hard-working people trying to make a living. This place, which used to be an "A" track is discusting and the owners seem to dictate what happens and when it happens. And nothing changes. Maybe a little more concern or a visit from the OLG or ORC or even OHHA to Windsor would open some eyes. Perhaps a letter to parliment members if that's how Mr Whelan handles things.

January 9, 2009 - 9:44 pmIt seems to me that we are

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

It seems to me that we are headed down a very dangerous slope when individual race tracks can decide who races and who doesn't. The ORC is the sole licensing and regulating body for racing in this province. They alone have the right and responsibility to determine who is allowed to race and who doesn't based on established criteria. Although, I can understand and applaud what WEG is trying to do, they nor any other track should have to use the trespass act to compensate for a lack of action by the ORC. The individual(s) that violate the rules that clearly harm the integrity of harness racing must not have a licence to participate at any cost. The ORC has the mandated responsibility for this.

January 9, 2009 - 7:49 pmWhether horseman like it or

B (not verified) SAID...

Whether horseman like it or not, WEG is a private company entitled to conduct their business as they see fit within the laws of the land. So far I haven't seen WEG do anything that was not in the best interest of their business. I can't say the same for OHHA.

January 9, 2009 - 6:51 pmMy concern and my only

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

My concern and my only concern is THE HORSE, when a honest person does well with a new horse and they put his horses in the retention barn thats not fair to the horse, trainer, or owner as some horses act up and get hurt. Its not fair. So I say ban the guilty. WHEN HE IS PROVEN GUILTY.

January 9, 2009 - 6:26 pmThe decline of horse racing

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

The decline of horse racing has been going on for years now. And no one seems to have any big answers to solve this problem. Thank god for slot revenue or every track in the province would be shut down except WEG and the purses there would be alot less. The number one issue between OHHA and WEG is what to do with the cheaters. WEG's number one priority is not to the horseman its to the patron the bettors and to make sure they're not getting cheated out of their money. OHHA better get their act together because this issue is small compared to the survival of harness racing.

January 9, 2009 - 5:40 pmwhere oh where is the ORC

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

where oh where is the ORC during this dispute. I was of the opinion that they were the Regulatory body overseeing all Horse Racing in the Province yet it would now appear that they are willing to take a back seat to WEG and let WEG call the shots. I only hope that the Horse people never regret not supporting their association but I fear the day will come in the not too distant future when the big hand of WEG will come down just to show all who is in charge.

January 9, 2009 - 4:43 pmWeg is correct on their

SD (not verified) SAID...

Weg is correct on their stand.As an owner I am in agreement with the trespass policy.OHHA letter to the MPP has taken this a step too far.You do not agree to suspend the boycott of entering horses(which they were wrong to do in the first place aas they did not have full support of horseman)one night and turn around and send off these letters the following day.This is not the way you negotiate in good faith!!!This may be a recourse as a last resort.

OHHA is acting as if they were a union not an association.The directors of OHHA have been mainly supported by those districts(western Ontario) not even representing those in the boundaries of WEG.OHHA has not handled this situation properly and WEG decission not to further talk with them is understandable.

The private policy should be enforced at all tracks and get those who abuse horses,the sport,bettors and the bad public opinions out of here.Maybe a new association should be formed for those of us who want to better harness racing, provide a better product and have the rules enforced by the ORC and judges.That type of association could work with the owners of the tracks and make sure both horsepeople and racetracks get to move ahead so that everyones investments are protected and profitable.

January 9, 2009 - 4:09 pmMaybe with Mr. Leerhsen

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Maybe with Mr. Leerhsen leaving Sports Illustrated he can write a new book about OHHA's actions and call it "Crazy". With the government and OLG currently in the process of reviewing the slot agreements with the tracks why would anybody in the industry write to the MPPs. It is either ill conceived or an act of desparation. With wagering down, a slumping economy this is simply not the time for OHHA to start slinging mud. Mr. Wilmot has always showed leadership in the racing field, it is time for OHHA's leadership to do the same.

January 9, 2009 - 4:08 pmIt's time one organization

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

It's time one organization involved of substance took a stand against those who steal from honest horsemen and abuse the animals who put forth the biggest effort in this sport.

January 9, 2009 - 2:24 pmi dont have any problem with

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

i dont have any problem with weg banning people from there premises if the shoe fits ,however i dont feel they should be able to bar anyone from the premises ,just because they want to ,its like the childhood story ,where johnny says ,if you dont like the way i play the game then i'm gonna take my ball and go home ,so there.they are barring people from the premises ,that are fully liscensed,that arent even racing horses ,just because they want to ,no other reason!

January 9, 2009 - 2:00 pmWho exactly has the issue

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Who exactly has the issue with woodbine doing their own policing?i see by the entries that a number of trainers who were invited to participate in the detention barn over the last few years are still racing. does this not prove that they are willing to remove any suspicion which may surround them. unless i am mistaken the OHHA is not acting for the membership but is supporting their own agenda. woodbine has not to my knowledge banned anyone who is trying to improve the image of the sport?

I believe that OHHA can no longer be involved in contract negotiations at any ontario track, as each have unique situations and cannot be all heaped into the same pile.

I for one admire WEG and other tracks across north america who exercise their private property rights. if horse sales are any indication-people still want to race horses
and OHHA should stick to organizing youth camps and doling out the rrsp's etc etc, and let the track horsemans reps decide whats best for themselves

January 9, 2009 - 1:52 pmWay to go OHHA! The racing

Al Casselman (not verified) SAID...

Way to go OHHA! The racing agreement is between you and WEG, on their property. The only reason you should bother the government representatives is to thank them for your livelihood from slot revenue to horseman that could , in the future be sent to health care or education budgets to name a couple worthy causes. Can we not enjoy the slot money while we are getting it and try and get along as partners!!!!!!

January 9, 2009 - 1:33 pmIt's my understanding that

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

It's my understanding that WEG will not ban whoever, just the class 1-3 offenders, what's wrong with that?

January 9, 2009 - 1:24 pmFailure to recognize the

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Failure to recognize the horsemen's association (OHHA) is no different than saying that WEG is the supreme authority for Harness Racing and for all racing, for that matter. If WEG has no legal obligation to negotiate with OHHA, why have they done so in the past? Who is next on their "cut off list", the thoroughbred people (HBPA)?
I have been both a thoroughbred and harness owner for 20+ years. After reading Wilmot's comments, I will no longer race on any WEG circuit and most likely move my horses to the US.
WEG is constantly stressing "integrity for the betting public". How can they accomplish this when they refuse to exhibit leadership and fail to sit down with owners, trainers, grooms and their representatives for the sake of "integrity for the betting public". OHHA's agenda is public information. WEG's excuses are frivolous and immature, to say the least.

January 9, 2009 - 1:15 pmIt appears to me we have

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

It appears to me we have several issues here.

One, the penalties being imposed on "cheaters" by the ORC is not suitable to WEG and I for one totally agree with them. I believe that WEG and OHHA should be looking at their roles as a partnership and they should be working together. I feel that the ORC is to blame in this issue and both WEG and OHHA should be jointly approaching the ORC to get them to impose stiffer penalties on repeat cheaters.

Secondly, OHHA and WEG have got to realize this is a partnership and they have to work together. It appears to me that OHHA management have a need to be fighting. This situation should never have gotten to this stage. OHHA had a meeting with us horsemen and the vote was to continue racing and OHHA was to continue negotiating with WEG. OHHA then went around thru the back door to lobby goverment reps to have OLG cut off the WEG slot revenue! This is not going along with the horsemens vote because if the revenue is cut off by OLG racing will be suspended. OHHA is completely off base.

Perhaps it is time to form a new horsemens organization that is willing to work with track managements for the betterment of all racing stakeholders instead of just horsemen.

A long time owner, trainer and former driver.

January 9, 2009 - 12:49 pmI agree with woodbine and

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I agree with woodbine and WEG stand, previous comments on ORC job to do-
but not being done. That said I would continue to enter my horses - if I
had any- in business since 1982, left in Oct when ORC licence up for renewal.
Not coming back.

January 9, 2009 - 12:32 pmwell looks like WEG was able

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

well looks like WEG was able to do what Charlie @ Flamboro could not do..........break the OHHA players up........The Napoloens ot WEG were able to DIVIDE & conquer. I am saddend that all this has played out in the media & not in meetings with two groups, I am afraid @ the end of the day WEG will be the winner & horsepeople will be the losers, Horsepeople are looking @ this short term & not long term

What is the purpose of the ORC if WEG can make there own rules as they go........next thing you know they will be telling all partcipants who can enter for whatever reason they like

Horse men & women be weary & proceed cautiously........

January 9, 2009 - 12:32 pmCongratualations

Murray B (not verified) SAID...

Congratualations Horsepeople!! You blame OHHA for not doing enough! Mr. CEO made one very good point. "Horseman never stopped entering." During that short period of time where there was a request to not enter, you continued to enter. Fill your pockets as fast as you can!!! Save your money for a rainy day!! When it does finally rain, it will not stop. When that happens you will run back to OHHA or go running back Quebec or Alberta or anywhere on the East Coast or maybe B.C. Wait a minute, you already ran those industries into the ground or you were kicked out for cheating so you can't go back. WEG did not put OHHA in the position to appeal to the government to take action!! It was the horseman, trainers and drivers. All the issues WEG had on the table before will now come back on the table and you have no decision. You have put yourself in a position to have no voice. Shame on you and your selfish greedy ways.

The ball is in your court WEG! Please prove to me an owner and a fan of the sport that you want standardbred racing to survive in Ontario!! Adopt the policies of races strictly for Ontario owned not just Ontario bred horses so the money stays here in Ontario. This will ensure the province will thrive all the time not just during the good times. THis will encourage people in Ontario to buy nicer horses so we can race in these classes. I know the first argument would be that there isn't enough horses and the classes would not produce a good product. It works in other jurisdications.

There is nothing worse than seeing a guy come up from Indiana with 3 horses and race for about a month and take home the better part of 75 000 after expenses in overnights and not spend any of that 75k in Ontario. Obviously stake races are different and yes you could say it is sour grapes on my part because I don't have good enough horses to make that kind of money or compete. That is a quick response to a more complex issue. This is not discrimination because you can still offer other races for those types of horses too. Trainers with out of province ownership would be concerned but they underestimate the potential already sitting in the province waitng to buy horses or more horses. An industry thrives when you take care of the people who pay into making it a strong industry. I would like to think that is what OHHA was trying to do. Maybe its just wishful thinking.

January 9, 2009 - 12:29 pmI don't mind barring

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I don't mind barring cheaters. What scares me is Woodbine's unilateral power to ban whoever they please, without recourse.

January 9, 2009 - 12:00 pmStop trying to run harness

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Stop trying to run harness racing and leave that to the ORC.

January 9, 2009 - 11:44 amThank you WEG for making a

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Thank you WEG for making a principled stand.

January 9, 2009 - 10:33 amGood on you Mr. Willmot. As

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Good on you Mr. Willmot. As an owner I’m in TOTAL agreement with you. I totally believe WEG should have the authority to ban horse-people for Class 1, 2, or 3 offences. Mr. Willmot, you can rest assure that I’ll continue to enter my horses!


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