Ontario racing’s current horse population crunch has had negative effects from farm to racetrack, but in the first few days of the new year the province’s breeders, owners and trainers have launched an exciting initiative.

The Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (CTHS), Ontario division, and the Ontario division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) announced the Mare Purchase Program (MPP) on Jan. 4 to rejuvenate the breeding industry.

The program provides “significant financial support” to Ontario residents who purchase mares in foal at four of the early 2017 winter sales in the U.S. and breed the mares back to Ontario sires this year.

“It’s absolutely necessary to get some enthusiasm into our breeding industry again,” said Ontario CTHS president Glenn Sikura. “We need to increase our mare population. We hope this program will help sell seasons to Ontario stallions, trainers will have horses to train and the track will fill races.”

The announcement comes soon after the annual CTHS Ontario December mixed sale that suffered a drastic drop in average horse price of 57 per cent with almost 50 per cent fewer horses offered in the catalogue.

Funding for the MPP, which totals $350,000, was provided by the CTHS ($200,000) and HBPA ($150,000).

Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) CEO Jim Lawson said, “WEG views the mare purchase program as a good initiative. We are currently immersed in our budget planning for our next fiscal year and have advised the CTHS that we are hoping to be in a position to support this program. As you know, thoroughbred breeding initiatives in Ontario are funded through the HIP program, which is approximately $15 million. The majority of which is funded by deductions from the WEG wagering dollar and a voluntary contribution from WEG. We expect a review of the HIP program to be conducted early this year which we anticipate will examine the effectiveness of the program and may lead to the support of new breeding initiatives from the HIP funding, such as the mare purchase program.”

The CTHS and HBPA developed the MPP in a timely fashion for the start of the Keeneland January Breeding Stock sale which began on Jan. 9. The other three sales that qualify for purchases of mares for the program are the Ocala Breeding Stock sale (Jan. 25 and 26), Fasig Tipton Midatlantic sale at Timonium, MD on Jan. 29 and the Fasig Tipton Kentucky Mixed sale on Feb. 6 and 7.

Ontario residents who purchase a pregnant mare for a minimum of $5,000 (U.S.) at one of those four sales and bring the mare back to Ontario to foal and then breed back to an Ontario sire will receive a reimbursement of up to 50 per cent of the purchase price (paid in Canadian dollars at par value). The resulting 2017, registered Ontario bred and Ontario sired foal will also have to be sold as a weanling or yearling at a recognized CTHS Ontario sale or make two starts in Ontario to qualify.

The two starts must be made by the end of the 2017 foal’s 3-year-old season, although exemptions based on health or well being of the horse will be taken into consideration if the two starts are not made.

The maximum amount of reimbursement per mare purchased is $15,000 (Cdn) and a collective maximum per Ontario resident purchaser of $50,000 (Cdn).

Examples of purchases include:

• If a mare costs $4,900 (U.S.) or less
the purchaser is NOT eligible for incentive funds.

• If a mare costs $5,000 (U.S.) – $30,000 (U.S.) the purchaser is eligible for 50 per cent in incentive funds (payable in CDN dollars at par).

• $8,000 (U.S.) purchase generates a $4,000 (CDN) incentive to purchaser.

• $24,000 (U.S.) purchase generates a $12,000 (CDN) incentive to purchaser.

• If a mare costs $30,100 (U.S.) or more, the purchaser is eligible for the maximum of $15,000 (CDN) in incentive funds.

“We are thrilled about it,” said Kathleen Kemp, who owns Ballycroy Training Centre in Loretto, ON with husband Steve. “It is definitely encouraging to have this program, and needed.

“We sold eight of out mares last year as we weren’t sure what was happening with the industry. But Steve is now feeling confident and he is going shopping at the Keeneland sale.”

Owner and trainer Reade Baker believes the new program can instill confidence in the industry. “It’s a great idea,” said Baker. “A person could buy $100,000 worth of mares, get the $50,000 back and then sell the foals at the sale. If you race them, there are a lot of breeders’ awards available.”

Only the restriction on the broodmare purchaser being an Ontario resident is considered a drawback to some horsepeople who have American clients who race in Ontario.

“I have clients in the U.S. who race here and would buy a mare and join the program,” said Baker.

Full details and MPP Applications will be available through either the CTHS or the HBPA offices or via their websites.
The Mare Purchase Program offers a 50 per cent reimbursement on the purchase of qualified mares in the hopes of bringing new mares to Ontario, getting foals on the ground, supporting Ontario stallions and helping fill races