Friday, February 12, 2021

The Ontario Government announced its plans to lift the provincial emergency order, which includes horse racing, effective February 16, 2021.

To prepare for the return to racing, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is actively reviewing Ontario’s horse racing rules and regulations to ensure responsible measures continue to be taken to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

As a result, and pursuant to s. 2 of the Horse Racing Licence Act, 2015 and the Rules of Racing, effective immediately, the Registrar has temporarily amended a number of rules in order to accommodate the return to racing and ease industry burden, while also ensuring welfare for equine and human athletes and other racing participants.  Also, effective immediately, the Registrar has withdrawn the temporary revision made December 24, 2020 to claiming rule 15.09 (a).

The AGCO will closely monitor the impacts of these temporary changes to determine how long these measures will be in effect and to ensure they are meeting their desired outcomes.  The AGCO will be flexible in the event that any of the measures identified requires further amendment in order to uphold the health and safety of horse racing participants and racehorses.

As a reminder, the temporary amendments in the following industry notices are still in effect until otherwise specified:

Summary of Changes

Horse Eligibility and Qualifying Rules

An amendment has been made to reduce the number of horses that are required to qualify.  Any horse that has a clean charted line between the timeframe of November 1, 2020 through December 23, 2020 will not be required to qualify upon the restart of racing, provided that the horse races within the first 60 days following the restart of racing.  While the temporary rule is in effect, the number of days in which a horse must have a clean charted line in order to be entered to race will increase from 45 clear days to 60 clear days.  In addition, a horse can make a break in or off a qualifier and still enter into an overnight event, provided its previous start was a clean charted line within 60 clear days.

By way of example, and for further clarity:

  • Any horse that was racing and eligible to race during that time will be eligible when racing resumes, provided they enter within 60 clear days starting February 16, 2021 (can be entered up to and including April 17, 2021).
  • Any horse that was on the Judges’ List for performance when racing shut down on December 23, 2020 will remain on the Judges’ List and will need to qualify.
  • Any horse that was on the Judges’ List for two consecutive breaks must qualify.

For Added Money Events in the first 60 days of racing, the last three lines will be used on a horse, whether they occurred in the November 1, 2020 through December 23, 2020 timeframe or when racing resumes.

By way of example, and for further clarity:

Entering on/or before February 16, 2021:

  • The last three charted lines will be used to determine if a horse is eligible for an added money event, whether the line occurred between November 1, 2020 through December 23, 2020, or until the current date when the horse is being entered.

Entering after April 17, 2021:

  • The last three charted lines within 60 clear days of the declaration date will be used to determine if a horse is eligible to an added money event.

Impacted Rules:

11.01.02(f) A horse shall not be eligible to be declared in to race at any raceway unless: Not more than 45 clear days prior to the time of closing of declarationsfrom November 1, 2020 to December 23, 2020 the horse was credited with a clean charted past performance line obtained in a purse, qualifying or schooling race conducted at an extended meeting.

12.03 A horse that does not show a charted line at the chosen gait within its last six starts, or does not show a charted line within the previous sixty (60) 45 clear days, must perform in a qualifying race.

11.02.01 If a horse meets the conditions of Rule 11.01.01 and 11.01.02 it will be considered qualified and eligible to be declared to added money event races provided that one of its last three charted lines is a clean line in a purse, qualifying or schooling race, not more than sixty (60) forty-five (45) clear days before the closing of declarations and its individual time in that clean charted line meets the following standards for age and the size of the track where it raced or qualified after the Judges have given appropriate allowances for track conditions on that day.

Preference Dates for Qualifying:

Associations will have the discretion to assign preference in qualifying races for horses that do not have a clean charted line from November 1, 2020 through December 23, 2020, except when otherwise determined by the Judges, pursuant to Rule 17.10 (h).

Impacted Rule:

17.10  Starters and also eligibles for overnight events shall be drawn by lot from horses properly declared to start., except as follows:

  1. First preference shall be given to a horse that is stabled in Canada the day of the draw and remains in Canada until the race is contested; and
  2. Second preference shall be given according to a Horse’s last scheduled start in a purse race, other than races designated as schooling races, at the gait for which it is declared.

Associations shall have discretion to give preference to horses that do not have a clean line since November 1, 2020.

Horse Welfare:

The AGCO will closely monitor horse welfare to ensure there are no unintended consequences associated with lifting the qualifying requirements, and penalties will continue to apply to any trainer who races a horse who is unfit, at the Racing Officials’ discretion.

To that end, the amendments above are not intended to impact Rule 26.13: A trainer shall not start a horse or permit a horse in his or her custody to be raced if he/she knows or if by the exercise of reasonable care he/she might have known or have cause to believe that the horse is not physically fit to race. When a trainer believes that a horse is not physically fit to race, it is his or her responsibility to have the horse checked by a veterinarian and have that veterinarian certify that the horse is unfit to race and present such certification to the Commission Veterinarian or Official Veterinarian.

Claiming Rule 15.09(a):

On December 24, 2020 The Registrar temporarily deleted rule 15.09(a) which required that horses who are claimed in Ontario only race at tracks in the province for 60 days after being claimed, otherwise risking a monetary penalty or suspension.

This temporary rule revision was a response to industry requests, and was intended to allow greater flexibility for race horse owners during the provincewide shutdown, beginning on December 26, 2020 and ending on February 16, 2021.    

Effective immediately the temporary rule revision is withdrawn and rule 15.09(a) is back in effect.  

15.09(a) A claimed horse, regardless of ownership, shall only race at a track or tracks in the province of Ontario for the next 60 days, except where such a horse has been nominated to participate in an added money event before it was claimed. Any person who violates this rule shall be subject to a suspension or monetary penalty of 10% of the claiming price or 100% of the purse for each race, whichever is greater and the horse may be suspended. A claimant shall be held in violation of this rule if he or she disposes of the horse in any manner other than by claiming and the horse races outside of the province of Ontario within 60 days of the horse being claimed.

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