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Post Time with Dan Gall

Post Time

We have had quite a quick start to 2018 which so far has included our first Board meeting of the year, the Annual General Meeting for our members, the 29th annual O’Brien Awards and a very special announcement that Standardbred Canada made to the industry.

I thought for this month, we would recap some of the highlights so far this year to keep you up to speed with our activity as an association, as we continue to move forward.

First and foremost, on behalf of Standardbred Canada’s Board of Directors, I would like to thank Quebec’s Brian Paquet for his outstanding service as a Director of the Board. At our January meeting Brian announced his resignation and although I haven’t had the privilege to work with Brian for all that long, I do know he is very much respected as a knowledgeable and informative businessman in and outside of our industry. When Brian would speak at our meetings, he had everyone’s attention as we all were aware he was going to make a very salient point, or had an important question to be asked, or make comment to pay heed to. Aside from Brian’s business acumen, he also has a great sense of humour and a tremendous love and passion for the sport. We will miss Mssr. Paquet – au revoir!

With Brian’s announcement also came the nomination to the board to elect Murielle Thomassin, General Manager of Hippodrome 3R in Quebec. Murielle is a sharp, well established lady who has been a Standardbred Canada employee, with years of experience in the industry. Ms. Thomassin will be a welcome addition to the team and will provide great leadership and direction for the association.

I would also like to take this time to congratulate Joanne Colville who was elected as our Chair for the third consecutive year. Management and staff are looking forward to another exciting year under the direction and oversight of the 2018 Standardbred Canada board.

As part of this past February’s board meeting, we also hosted the Annual General Members Assembly and I thought that you might be interested in reading the comments that were made at this meeting.

Please find below the address made by yours truly at the AGM:

“Thank you, Chair.

2017 was a very interesting year for not only the horse racing industry but also Standardbred Canada.

Through a variety of many consultations with our members and internal and external stakeholders, the association representing approximately 6,000 members in Canada did our fundamental best in listening to and acknowledging our members needs, concerns and issues.

As a result of these consultations, Standardbred Canada began working on better serving our members and creating the added value our members have repeatedly asked for.

In 2017, through the board`s direction, we delivered for the fourth straight year no fee increases to our members.This is a direct result of acknowledging the challenges that our members are faced with year after year.

And I am proud to announce that even as everything else is increasing in cost, the board requested a fifth consecutive year for a ”fee freeze” for 2018.This is a strong testament of how aware our board is to the ongoing challenges facing our industry and our membership.

Even with the “fee freeze”, Standardbred Canada conducted a fee review to determine if any enhancements could be rolled out to our members. Throughout 2018 we will be releasing further information on how we can provide more value to our members.This actually started in December with the change to “late start eligibility fees.”

We are hoping for continued good news on this front in the upcoming months.

In 2017, we also merged two Ontario yearling sales into one with our partners from Forest City Sales this past year. The sale proved to have excellent results and we are proud to announce that the London Selected Yearling Sale, and our partnership, will carry into this year.

Last year we conducted a governance review led by the Garthson Leadership Centre, a list of recommendations were presented and accepted by the board in November, and we will implement approved recommendations throughout 2018.

Last summer, Standardbred Canada hosted the 25th World Trotting Conference and World Driving Championship in PEI. This included an industry symposium and it was an incredible week as we celebrated our industry with the world.

And because of the incredible interest shown from a host of sponsors, the event which was budgeted to cost the association, ended up being a break even venture for SC.

This was a true commitment from the province of PEI, Horse Racing Alberta, and so many other sponsors who came on board to support this initiative.

Standardbred Canada has also been facilitating and leading meetings with the regulating bodies across Canada to work on the “rules of racing” with the goal of having consistent rules for our national sport, across the country.

We also have struck a “media task force” with some of the leading sports writers in the country to discuss how better to improve our sports coverage in Canada.

And we have reached out to all Standardbred horse racing associations in Canada to begin quarterly teleconference calls to provide our industry leaders with updates about Standardbred Canada, and to get feedback from them on shared best practices so that industry can begin talking in unison and sharing some of the great stories that are happening in each of their jurisdictions. This also includes areas of focus that the associations feel Standardbred Canada needs to be focussing on and addressing in the future

2018 is going to be another busy and exciting year as we bring the computer upgrade that we have been working on, across the finish line, and we will also be looking at:

• Launching a loyalty program for our members.

• Transitioning over to micro-chipping for our horses for identification.

• Executing our government relations strategy.

• Enhancing awareness of the software program, TrackIT.

I have challenged the management team to prepare business cases designed to move the association forward as we continue to address the overall trending of the industry. We have also engaged our board in revising our strategic plan to ensure that Standardbred Canada remains on track and focussed for the next several years to come.

Thank you very much for your time and I would like to now turn it back over to our chair Joanne Colville”

Later that same day, Standardbred Canada and approximately 300 guests enjoyed our annual nationalshow, ‘The O’Brien Awards’.There were so many highlights from the evening including; Kelly Spencer hosting our first Red Carpet, the show was streamed over the Internet, our World Champion Driver James MacDonald was in attendance for a special video presentation and interview, and received a rousing applause, and then we made our special announcement at the end of the evening.

One of my most important duties that night was opening the evening and acknowledging our terrific sponsors.It is very important that our sponsors and our audience understand just how important their role is for this national awards program.

Here are my remarks made to the audience and our sponsors:

“Good evening,

I would like to thank everyone here tonight for joining us to celebrate our Canadian champions!A special thanks to our dignitaries for taking time from your schedules and for your support of horse racing across the country.

On behalf of Standardbred Canada, congratulations to all of the finalists.

Tonight we celebrate the accomplishments of the champion horses and champion horsepeople who thrilled us with their amazing performances on the racetrack and made outstanding contributions to Canadian harness racing in 2017.

Last year we also celebrated the 250th anniversary of Canadian horse racing from coast to coast and Standardbred Canada was proud to host the World Trotting Conference and the World Driving Championship which was won by our very own James MacDonald who is here with us this evening.

All of our champions are here tonight, including the champions for this event.If it wasn’t for these people and the organizations they represent, the O’Brien Awards would not be the event it is.

On behalf of the Board of Standardbred Canada, I would like to recognize and extend our sincere appreciation to our industry partners and sponsors for this year’s awards.

Our “Champions of Tonight’s Event” are: Jim Lawson and Jessica Buckley and the Woodbine Entertainment Group. The Woodbine team has worked with Standardbred Canada to produce the video for the O’Briens for over 19 years.Woodbine Entertainment also assists us in providing the live streaming of the awards presentations and are sponsoring the wine that will be served with dinner this evening.

So Cheers to Woodbine!And welcome to all our viewers watching at home!

Cal Bricker, Adriana Spaztner, Lori Shea and Team OLG, my former colleagues and good friends at the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation. They have partnered with us for the third consecutive year to present a very popular award; the Outstanding Groom Award.

The Magic Man, Bill O’Donnell and his fabulous team at the Central Ontario Standardbred Association – for sponsoring our cocktail reception.COSA has been involved as a sponsor of the O’Brien Awards for years and the cocktail and social hour before dinner has always been the perfect way to kick off the evening!

Mr. Hugh Mitchell and Mike Chopowick, and all at Ontario Racing – thank you for your sponsorship of the Media Excellence Awards for the second consecutive year.

Here’s another great person and association, I just love Shirley McClellan, she’s such a pistol and I could easily spend the day hanging with her. What a walking wealth of knowledge Shirley is. We want to thank her wonderful team at Horse Racing Alberta – for sponsoring the O’Brien’s video interviews which will be posted on for the week after the awards.

And by the way, just a quick comment…WEG, OLG, COSA, Ontario Racing, and Horse Racing Alberta also made significant contributions to the World Trotting Conference and World Driving Championship in PEI last summer. These organizations are always providing outstanding support to this industry!

Always a big hit is the complimentary portraits sponsored by our friends at OnTrack Media and Entertainment, and American Teletimer company.

The wonderful leaders and teams of Grand River Raceway, Great Canadian Gaming & the Raceway at Western Fair District for their contributions as industry partners. Last but not least, Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals – who are providing support and sponsorship of tonight’s video stream on the Standardbred Canada website

Thank you each and everyone of you!

Finally I would also like to give a tremendous shout out to Standardbred Canada’s Marketing Manager Kathy Wade Vlaar, and our Communications Manager, Mr. Darryl Kaplan who, year after year, do an amazing job of directing their teams behind the scenes, from the ground floor all the way to the top, to make this event what it is.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. We hope you enjoy the show!”

As mentioned, the O’Brien Awards culminated with a special announcement by Standardbred Canada to the industry and here is how we set that up…

Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year Award

“Somebeachsomewhere is the kind of horse that you will remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the news of his passing. What struck me was the sheer number of people who stopped what they were doing to read about the news on the Standardbred Canada website.

As a matter of fact, I remember Darryl Kaplan and Kathy Wade Vlaar coming to my office and asking if I have knew how many hits the story generated in just a few short hours of posting the news. In total, more than 70,000 people read that single story.


Later that week, in our manager’s meeting, we spent some time reminiscing about Beach and Kathy said we should do something in honour of Somebeachsomewhere. And I said, you know I just read a comment, not sure from who, but it was something to the effect that Somebeachsomewhere was the kind of horse that only comes around once in a lifetime.

And my friends, this is our lifetime and this is our horse.

So the team came up with an idea just about a week and a half ago.

We then sent out an immediate email to our board of directors and within a very short time, we received unanimous support from our board to move forward with our idea.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Standardbred Canada, our directors, employees and our members’, it is my distinct honour to announce that the O’Brien ‘Horse of the Year’ Award will now be referred to as the ‘Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year Award’ in honour of a true legend and one of the greatest standardbreds of all time.

I would like to now welcome and invite to the stage the team behind Somebeachsomewhere who have takentime to join us here tonight – members of the Schooner Stable – owners, Reg & Louise Petitpas, trainer/owner Brent MacGrath, and driver Paul MacDonell”

So...There you have it, a synopsis of our Board meeting, the AGM, and the O’Brien Awards.

I hope that I didn’t bore you but I feel it is important that you get the inside look of what was said and done during these important events.

Have a great month and hope you check back in April.

Dan Gall, President & CEO, Standardbred Canada
[email protected]

P.S. I also want to let you know that Standardbred Canada’s Executive Assistant and Corporate Secretary Caren Brown-Stockwell has tendered her resignation to take up a new position and career. Caren has been with our organization for close to 18 years and she has been my right arm (and often my left) ever since I came on board at Standardbred Canada. She leaves behind a saddened team, but an impressive footprint of the great work that she has brought to this association. Please join me in thanking her for all she has done and wishing her all the joy and luck in the world!

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