By Dave Briggs
Breeder David Anderson said sky-high maiden purses and enhanced breeders awards should make Ontario-bred thoroughbreds more attractive at sales this fall.
Ontario thoroughbred breeder David Anderson believes his provincial brethren have a number of competitive advantages heading into the fall sales season thanks to enhancements to the Thoroughbred Improvement Program (TIP) administered by Ontario Racing (OR).
Anderson, who represents thoroughbred breeders on the board of OR, points to both sky-high maiden purses at Woodbine and enhanced breeders awards — both of which receive funding from the TIP program — as reasons to buy Ontario thoroughbreds this fall.
“First and foremost, I think we're fortunate that our purse structure is not focused around casino revenue. With our long term funding agreement in place [with the province of Ontario], there’s a real sense of security. And, in North America, we have bragging rights for the highest maiden purses on the continent… A maiden special, Ontario-sired and Ontario-bred is now running for $126,000. Comparatively in the U.S. I think the highest maiden I've seen is $72,000,” Anderson said.
“From a return on investment perspective, when you look at the CTHS sale which has an average of, approximately, $22,000, now you have an opportunity to go out in your first start and run for $126,000. You've got a very good opportunity at getting out and covering most of your costs in one win.”
Anderson said TIP has also added breeder awards of between $10,000 and $13,000 to go to the breeder of a horse that wins a maiden at Woodbine or Fort Erie.
“For the first month of racing in June, we had one breeder that received a cheque for over $50,000 just for one month,” Anderson said. “That’s how significant it was and there was a handful of them in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. Our mandate at OR this year was to revamp our breeders awards. We did that. At the end of the day, TIP stands for the Thoroughbred Improvement Program, so if you can offer breeders those kinds of incentives and awards, that's significant money that they can go and hopefully buy new mares and breed to better stallions.”
Anderson also pointed to TIP’s Reward of Excellence program that gives $50,000 to the breeder of the leading 2- and 3-year-old colts and fillies. Also, the breeder of the Queen’s Plate winner gets a cheque for $50,000 and the breeder of the Woodbine Oaks gets a cheque for $30,000.
“That's brand new,” Anderson said of the awards for Plate and Oaks winners. “In fact, early this morning, I was texting John Sikura, breeder of Curlin’s Voyage that won the Oaks on Saturday, to let him know that he's got a $30,000 cheque coming to him for the Oaks bonus. Those are significant awards that really make a difference.”
Anderson said enhanced awards and maiden purses, coupled with relatively low numbers of available Ontario-bred yearlings, should help drive prices this fall for Ontario-bred thoroughbreds.
“Going into the sales season and we have approximately 600 Ontario-bred yearlings this year. We have 200 and change at the CTHS sale and 150 selling between Fasig-Tipton September and Keeneland September. So, there's really not a lot of competition going for those dollars. When you weigh it out, there's real opportunity,” Anderson said.
“When you're selling south of the border, I don't think that a lot of the buyers really think about coming back to Woodbine and racing, but now with this new program, they have to look at it. There's just so much money to be made up here and with less competition… It’s easy math.”
TIP is one of three breed-specific improvement programs that flows out of Ontario’s Horse Improvement Program that also supports the Standardbred Improvement Program (SIP) and the Quarter Horse Racing Industry Development Program (QHRIDP). TIP gets a slightly higher percentage of the total funding due to a 2019 OR decision to return to dividing HIP money based on the percentage of wagering, which is highest on thoroughbred racing in the province.
Home market wagering is the primary HIP funding source, though breeder awards receive additional government funding, approximately $10 million annually from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) corporation.
The fact HIP funding comes mostly from home market wagering does slightly concern Anderson about HIP funding for 2021. Though overall wagering on thoroughbred racing in Ontario is up slightly in 2020, the amount wagered specifically from the track’s home market area is down sharply this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“That could adversely affect it given the state of the pandemic and not being able to have on-site wagering at the tracks and our teletheatres,” Anderson said. “But that's starting to open up now. The fact that a lot of our big race dates have been pushed back to the fall, hopefully we're going to get more and more wagering this fall. I'm hoping, I'm optimistic that by the end of the year will right the ship and be back at water level again.”
Meaning TIP levels should remain strong and thoroughbred buyers would be wise to consider an Ontario-bred horse this fall.
Photo by John Watkins
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