Few people, if any, have devoted more hours to trying to build a sustainable future for Canada’s thoroughbred industry than Sue Leslie, a trainer, long-time president of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario (HBPA), current board member of Ontario Racing (OR) and former president of OR’s predecessor, the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA).
Leslie was president of OHRIA when Ontario’s Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) was cancelled by the provincial government and she was key in fighting back to achieve funding for the industry. In recent years, she led the charge both to get a thoroughbred purse increase at Woodbine and convinced OR to change the splits on the Horse Improvement Program (HIP) away from a 50/50 share with the standardbred industry and back to a traditional split based on wagering that favours the runners and provides more funding for critical thoroughbred breeding programs.
What are the most critical challenges facing the industry in Canada today?
“In no particular order, the need for: a new revenue stream, an increase in the ownership base, improved integrity, better focus on the customer and improved welfare and aftercare of horses.”
What needs to change about the industry in the next 5-10 years?
“A number of things: the perception of horse racing overall, regulations on drugs, whipping and track surfaces must be uniform across North America, the marketing approach needs to improve and there needs to be a system of humane euthanasia for horses that is no different than the one we have for our dogs and cats.”
How can you help affect that change?
“Through strong leadership, having the courage to make and support unpopular decisions and continuing to improve and cement the partnership between racetracks and horsepeople.”
Where do they see the thoroughbred industry in Canada in 10 years?
“I see a consolidated industry in terms of number of tracks and race days. I see competition for the entertainment/betting dollar being ferocious and I see technology continuing to entice wagering away from onsite.”