Peter Berringer, currently the President and National Director of CTHS-Ontario, has enjoyed more than 40 years in the racing industry. A long-time trainer, including as the conditioner and part-owner of 2011 Grade 2 King Edward stakes-winner Court of the Realm, Berringer has also participated in the industry as an owner and breeder while serving as a director of the CTHS for nearly two decades.
Court of the Realm, a graduate of the 2008 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, now stands at stud Berringer’s Aurora Meadows in Rockwood, ON as a registered Ontario-sire.
From his start at Aurora Meadows, launched by his uncle Alfred Mills in the 1970s, Berringer benefitted from the tutelage of Franz Crean. Eventually he became the farm’s manager responsible for foaling of mares, managing stallions and preparing and breaking yearlings. His dedication to the industry has seen Berringer hold a number of positions on the CTHS board including Sales Chair and Vice President. He became President in January 2018, and plays a critical part in steering the industry towards a more sustainable future.
What are the most critical challenges facing the industry in Canada today?
“There are three critical challenges facing the Canadian racing industry today: horse supply, a sustainable local breeding industry, and industry participation and awareness.
“The declining foal crops, reduction of stallions in Ontario, and diminishing number of starts in racing are metrics that easily reflect this reality. The thoroughbred breeders of Ontario are in crisis and our industry partners must recognize the profound significance of this reality. We must devise a plan to stabilize, regain and grow breeder confidence if the industry is to see a future. A first step towards this would be creating a new plan that is more beneficial for local Ontario breeders rather than those out of province.
“As an industry we struggle to compete for attention which leads to several additional challenges such as the rise of alternative forms of leisure gambling, the cost of raising and training a horse, the public’s perception on equine health and welfare, research, aftercare, employment, transparency and integrity. These issues also hinder our ability to attract new customers and participants.”
What needs to change about the industry in the next 5-10 years?
“In order to revitalize the horse industry we need to re-incentivize and cultivate interest among shareholders and customers, to encourage financial investment, and to implement new communications, transparency, and promotional strategies.
“There are three main components of the horse industry: breeders, horse people, and (government funded) racetracks. All segments are labour and capital intensive that create crucially important economic benefits through employment opportunities, especially for rural Ontario. A healthy horse industry is critical to the survival of independent businesses in rural Ontario.
“It is essential that breeders are acknowledged as a strategic and essential partner, to be at and part of the decision making process for a successful future. While breeders are given a minority seat at the table, their voices are not adequately reflected in racing policies. Addressing this shortcoming would be a good first step in helping local breeders regain confidence in the business so that they feel confident in making long-term investments in the sport.”
“The racetracks have done a good job of bringing attention to some of the best horses, but we have to expand on this. Ontario has a great history of breeding some of the world’s best and most influential horses; we need to focus more on these success stories to bolster support and increase recognition of our breeders.
“The industry has to decide what it stands for going forward. It seems to me that gambling and casinos have been conflated with horse people and horse racing. The horse industry needs better initiatives to support rural agriculture and its economy (breeders). Racing jurisdictions that are the most successful are investing directly into their local breeders and local restricted racing programs. This creates a base with numbers of racehorses for racetracks to put on competitive full race programs.
“We need change to happen. Breeders, horsepeople, and racetracks have to work together as industry partners and devise a comprehensive 5-10 year plan, which is acceptable to all stakeholders. Otherwise, I’m concerned that we will have fewer horses resulting in fewer race dates and a decrease in employment opportunities on and off the track. This will completely change the face of the racing industry in Ontario and further distance us from our cultural roots of breeding for the love of the animal, sport, and lifestyle.”
How can you help affect that change?
“I have spent untold hours and miles attempting to educate government, OLG, WEG, HBPA, and participants about the plight of breeders in Ontario. Breeders are an essential segment of the industry partnership and we need an equal part in the industry decision making. The breeders can be looked at as the manufacturing sector of the horse industry. With a declining manufacturing component of an industry there is no potential for a vibrant future! ALL partners/sectors of the horse industry have to create a collaborative industry vision, representing all stakeholders’ views.
“I would like to see breeders and owners in Ontario, many of which are both (the top 10 owners at Woodbine in 2019 were all breeders), unite and develop a plan for racing and breeding. With a united front, we could present to our racetrack partners a short and long-term vision that would grow the industry and make it sustainable and vibrant for all. It is understood by all participants – purses drive the industry.
“I agree the industry needs to evolve as our horse demographics, generational ideals and interests, and leisure gambling opportunities, all contribute to the struggle for overall public attention. However, all sectors/partners in the industry have to sit equally at the negotiating table and create a minimum 5-year consecutive and realistic plan, because of the long horse breeding cycle. This allows breeders and industry participants to collaborate and unite and adjust their business models for a sustainable but realistic future.”
Where do you see the thoroughbred industry in Canada in 10 years?
“The industry in 10 years is dependent on the critical decisions being made now. I encourage all participants to relay their thoughts and ideas to any of your elected horse association representatives, politicians, or racetracks. Now is not the time to be complacent, or allow others to decide your future in the horse industry. We ALL have to unite, work together and create a vision and plan to grow the horse industry, and make it sustainable and enjoyable for all participants.
“The contribution made by the horse industry contributes greatly to the Canadian economy and quality of life. We have many challenges and a real need for additional industry funding — horse racing contributes billions of dollars to our national economy — with millions of dollars generation through all levels of taxes and horse racing wagering.
“Canada’s outdated and unfair treatment of the tax laws for the horse industry have to change, because it puts Canadian participation at a huge disadvantage (section 31) compared to any other Canadian business and to be competing with foreign entities here in Ontario.
“There are billions of dollars in significant investment in horses, properties, and all the associated businesses. I believe that the decline or even collapse of the horse industry would have significant impact on the tax base and social fabric of Canadian and Ontario economics.
“Horse breeding and racing is a passion, sport, and a lifestyle and needs to be shared and communicated to the public for them to understand the dedication and love of all those involved in this undervalued but significant industry to so many rural economies across Canada. We need to educate the public about the culture and lifestyle of racing in order to renew interest in the sport and for it to flourish in the future.”