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Post Time with Dan Gall

Post Time

With Spring in the air and a full race season ahead we have recently had some positive news across the country that signifies some solid momentum going forward.

The recent announcement of the Cape Breton Federation of Agriculture signing a 10 year agreement with Harness Racing Cape Breton that sees live horse racing at Northside Downs, including 30 live race cards this season, is a great show of partnership and commitment from both sides. All parties and individuals are to be congratulated and applauded on the concerted efforts that were made to secure this 10 year agreement to solidify the sport in Cape Breton. These discussions are never easy as both sides look to reach a win-win, and it appears they have achieved a win-win-win for the Federation of Agriculture, Northside Downs, and of course, all the race fans in Cape Breton. Well done!

The Quebec Jockey Club has announced their 40 card race season to open at the end of April which includes the $200,000 Prix d'Ete - the track's premiere race of the season for four-year-old pacers. This race is one of the main events of the season in the Canadian harness racing circuit, and a must-see to support all at Hippodrome 3R who have been working very hard to keep their sport exciting and moving forward. The announcement of new General Manager Murielle Thomassin (SC Director) can only be viewed most positively by the industry.

The Ontario Government announced their long term agreement to horse racing in Ontario including a two billion dollar commitment over the next 19 years. This allows the industry to take a collective sigh, and it now needs to roll up its sleeves and get down to treating the money and the sport as the business it is. This means communication, support and confidence in making the changes needed to right an old ship that has gone off course.

I was absolutely delighted to hear that the Manitoba Government was willing to open up the horse file in the province by doing research to learn what economic drivers are created by having a thriving and robust horse racing program in the province. We are all hoping for positive follow-up news from Manitoba and I know that everyone is willing to assist wherever possible to see a healthy and full race program back in the province of Manitoba.

Alberta has been on a real ride with a brand new one-mile racetrack on the horizon and Century Downs celebrating their fourth race season hosting events like; 'Horse Racing 101' where they had over 40 women enrolled to learn about horse racing by attending workshops and learning the basics of betting. And, it is also the third year of the 'Century Downs Racing Club' where this season it has a strong number of fractional owners investing in two promising young horses. Presently, the club has 93 members to start the season, the same number as last year.

All good news stories for our sport.

At Standardbred Canada we recently conducted a very thorough research survey with our members, stakeholders, employees and directors.

Although we are still dissecting the information, as it was a very exhaustive survey, we did get some valuable insights from all those who participated. Those insights include that there is a disconnect of what Standardbred Canada should be doing for the industry versus what our mandate and objectives currently are. And, that we need to define our role as an association so that our members aren't disappointed, or are at a minimum, aware of what Standardbred Canada can and should be for the industry.

We are narrowing this focus with the help of the research and the Board of Directors.

Although research suggests that the association should continue what it is doing by doing more, we also understand that we cannot be all things to everybody. So, it is our hope we become more impactful and meaningful to our members and the industry.

Still, one of the most alarming findings from the research was that when asked what the future looks like in the next five to ten years, all stakeholders held a bleak and dim view of the future of the sport. With some even commenting "what industry?".

This confuses and confounds me. Our respondents have suggested that Standardbred Canada stays the course and continue to do what we are doing, and even do more with what we are not doing, But when reading what the stakeholders prognosis of the industry is over the next ten years it would suggest that any commitment or time spent in any area would all be for naught.

When telling someone about this quandary, I was told if we asked that same question during our good years we would have received the same negative response overall regarding the sport's future.

Having thought about what he said, I am left with the distinct impression that we have to start thinking and talking more positively. Who wants to be part of a sport consisting of naysayers with such a bleak outlook and view?

To be better we have to think better. We have to look at the good signs that are happening in the sport and move more towards them while not ignoring the bad signs.

If we want to be young we need to think young. We need to get young. That means in every facet of our industry and within our association.

With the help of our board, Standardbred Canada wants to narrow the focus of what we do well and underline and bold what we will bring to the table for our members and stakeholders.

When talking about what my personal vision of the sport is within ten years, I would like to be able to say that; harness racing will be a nationally recognized sporting event in the entertainment industry in Canada.

What is your vision? Whatever it is, that will be your outcome.

We have a lot of shining stars, we have a world-class product, we have some very strong, functional leadership and it's time to embrace the need to change our approach and put some faith into the people that just want to make a difference to secure the future of a great historic and rich sport.

This all starts with a positive thought and outlook. With the good news I mentioned atop of this column I don't think it's a stretch to say "yeah… these are positive signs… let's keep it going."

It's a start anyway.

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

P.S. To our friend Heather Reid who recently retired from Standardbred Canada after 46 years of dedication loyalty and experience. We thank you - We miss you - We're proud of you! We wish Chuck and yourself a happy retirement and know we'll see you around!

P.S.S. It is sometimes difficult thinking of subject matter for this article. With the weeks going as fast as they do it seems I am forever wondering about what to write next. I know that this might be a sign that I am filling up space and not being an effective communicator, and so I have decided that I will only write when I believe I have something to say. Unfortunately for most, it seems I always have something to say! However, you may not see this column on the monthly basis it has been. This has been an extremely useful way to share my thoughts and comments about the association, including providing backdrop and explanation to what is happening around us, and this will continue. It just may not be as frequently as it has been in the past.

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