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Kawartha Horsepeople Fear OHHA Loss

Published: March 9, 2019 10:20 am ET

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Participants and politicians from the Peterborough area have commented on the directive from Ontario Racing to cease making administration payments to the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) at the end of this month.

Ontario Racing announced last month that it will stop funding OHHA, representing some 2,600 harness racing industry participants, as of March 31. At that time, Ontario Racing (OR) stated its organization will only recognize the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA), already a member of OR.

Due to its opposition of certain terms included in the long-term funding agreement created by the previous Ontario government, OHHA has thus far refused to join OR. OHHA receives funding from OR through purse deductions that the organization uses to administer member benefits, insurance and RRSPs.

The agreement allows for racetracks and organizations to sign on and agree to terms up until April 1, 2019. As of press time, three Standardbred racetracks -- Kawartha Downs, Leamington Raceway and Hiawatha Horse Park -- have not signed on. These three tracks are currently operating on two-year funding agreements.

According to local trainer and OHHA rep Dave Gibson, OHHA has represented Peterborough-area horsepeople for six decades and he's backing OHHA's fight for survival.

"OHHA fought to keep our industry alive following the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program," Gibson told the Peterborough Examiner. "OHHA fought alongside local horsepeople to keep Kawartha Downs open when we were all but abandoned by the previous government. I can't imagine where we'd be without OHHA."

OHHA General Manager Brian Tropea stated that his organization has already reached out to government in attempt to save the horsemen's group.

"We're here to stay and have begun working with the government to solve this," Tropea said. "We're continuing to manage benefits and to provide representation to standardbred horsepeople in Ontario. We are asking our supporters to renew their memberships and not to join Ontario Racing's chosen horsepeople's group while we fight to reverse this decision."

The Hon. Laurie Scott, Ontario's current Minister of Labour and MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott is aware of the situation and encouraged more dialogue between the parties.

"I encourage all parties to sit down in order to develop a workable solution," Scott told The Examiner. "Our government remains committed to the success of the horse racing industry across the province."

In response to the OHHA statements, Ontario Racing executive director Katherine Curry issued the following statement to The Examiner.

"Standardbred racing in the Peterborough area has a long and storied history and we'd welcome Kawartha Downs as a member track of Ontario Racing," Curry stated. "The Standardbred horsepeople are represented in Ontario Racing by the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA). Ontario Racing has directed funding to COSA, which has opened up its membership to horsepeople throughout the province to ensure no horseperson in the province will be without benefits.

"Ontario Racing has met with the Ontario Harness Horse Association to exchange views on how the industry can best move forward."

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