The Ontario Racing Commission has revised the standards for quarter horse, thoroughbred, and harness racing meets with respect to the daily purse distribution, number of races daily, purse account redistribution, and for standardbred racing, the minimum claiming prices. We will concern ourselves with the standardbred changes. Of course, these changes are necessary due to the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program on March 31.
These changes give a good idea as to how the cancellation of SARP will impact the standardbred industry. While most of these changes were expected, there will no doubt be controversy regarding purse account redistribution.
Racing dates fall into three levels, Grassroots, Signature, and Premier. Depending on the level, the daily purse distributions (for overnight events) and the number of races to be contested (all races) are specified. Grassroots programs would be similar to county fairs where there typically is no simulcasting. Signature programs are typically simulcasted but the programs tend to be of interest within Canada. Premier programs, the programs WEG (Mohawk, and Woodbine) contest are the best racing where simulcasting is expected to be exported outside of Canada, such as to the United States and other international markets.
Here are the purse and number of race ranges for each level:
Grassroots program $25,000-$35,000 8 to 10 races
Signature program $45,000-$65,000 10 to 12 races
Premier program $125,000+ 10 to 13 races
Perhaps the most controversial issue of these new standards concerns purse distribution. During the SAR period, redistribution of purse funds could only occur within tracks owned by the same operator. For example Windsor, Dresden, and Woodstock were owned by the same company. Now, for all practical purposes, there is one aggregate purse account for the entire Ontario standardbred program. If it is determined by that purses need to be boosted at a particular track, for example Hanover Raceway, money which traditionally would have been credited to WEG tracks could be re-directed if it was found necessary.
Lastly, to reflect the new purse structure, minimum claiming prices have been adjusted downwards at the various tracks. Grassroots programs may have a minimum claiming price of $3,000; Signature programs $5,000; Premier programs $8,000.