Because of the elimination of the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) by the provincial government, there will not be a Confederation Cup this year at Flamboro Downs. Held annually, the Confederation Cup is one of the largest events of the year in Flamborough. What follows is an article by www.yourhamiltonbiz.com on this year’s cancellation.

CONFEDERATION CUP A SIGN OF CHANGING HORSE RACE INDUSTRY

By Joseph Engelhardt
www.YourHamiltonBiz.com

Changes in the racing calendar at Flamboro Downs have marked the end of tradition at the track – at least for this year.

The Confederation Cup – an annual harness race held at Flamboro Downs each August – has been put “on hold” for 2013, said Bruce Barbour, the executive director of racing at the track.

“We’re looking to see what happens going forward with racing in general and where it will fit,” he said. “For this summer, we just won’t be having it.”

Earlier this year, the number of race dates at the track was reduced to 100 days spread over six months, with the track closing from May to October.

The Confederation Cup is traditionally a summer event, so it didn’t fit into the track’s new schedule, said Barbour.

As YourHamiltonBiz reported earlier this year, the reduced number of races at the track also meant job losses.

Barbour said that 25 employees received pink slips, while an additional 31 employees were laid off.

As many as 25 of the laid off staff could be recalled in November when racing resumes, he said.

The track currently has 109 active employees, he said.

Changes to the horse racing industry began last year when the provincial government ended the slots at racetracks (SAR) program. Under the program revenue raised by slot machines operated at racetracks went to support the tracks and horse racing industry.

In the wake of the decision, a transition panel was formed to help the racing industry adjust to the new challenges that followed the loss of SAR funding.

Among the recommendations made by the panel was a reduction in race dates.

While the goal is a better racing industry in Ontario, parts of the industry are currently feeling the effects of the reduction, said John Snobelen, a member of the panel.

“I think there’s real pain involved on the breeding side,” he said.

“The industry’s getting its head around having to do some things differently to have a better future.”

That future couldn’t be further from the reality, said Brian Tropea, the general manager of the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA).

“The situation’s desperate right now,” he said. “We’ve essentially got half as much racing as we had in the past, and when we do have an opportunity to race, we’re racing for half as much money.”

A number of breeders and training centres in the province – including many in Flamborough – have started to close and move to more lucrative markets, including the U.S., he said.

Those who have stayed are being forced to cut back operations, he said.

“Most everybody, I would say, have already divested themselves of some of their holdings,” he said.

Despite the struggles faced by breeders, Snobelen said he’s optimistic about the future of the industry.

“This will be one of the most robust programs in North America, but it will still be about half of what it was,” he said. “That means there’s an immediate shock to the market place.”

There’s also hope for the future, he said.

“The good news, I guess, is that we think there’s going to be a horse supply problem in a couple of years, in that they’ll be an under-supply of horses,” he said.

“There’s good news in the pipeline for breeders as this program emerges.”

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