The Ontario Government announced its plans to lift the provincial emergency order on horse racing, effective May 19, 2020.
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 are taken to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
Our Racing Officials have also worked with a number of industry stakeholders including racetrack management, horsepersons’ associations, veterinarians, and wagering bodies to seek input and address concerns related to the start of racing.
As a result of these discussions, and pursuant to s. 2 of the Horse Racing Licence Act, 2015 and the Rules of Racing, the Registrar will temporarily amend 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. 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.
In addition to the rules outlined below which largely address pre-racing activities, the AGCO will continue to work to release additional changes that pertain to racing activities in the coming weeks.
Standardbred Rule Amendments:
Horse Eligibility and Qualifying Rules:
Summary of Changes:
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 February 1, 2020 through March 19, 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 June 5 (can be entered up to and including August 4).
- Any horse that was on the Judges’ List for performance when racing shut down on March 20 will remain on the Judges’ List and will need to qualify.
- Any horse that was on the Judges’ List for breaks (off a qualifier) when racing shut down and has a clean charted qualifying line prior to that break between February 1, 2020 through March 19, 2020 will be taken off the Judges’ List going forward and be eligible to race per the new rule.
- Any horse that was on the Judges’ List for two consecutive breaks must qualify.
For Added Money Events, the last three lines will be used on a horse, whether they occurred in the February 1, 2020 through March 19, 2020 timeframe or when racing resumes, as long as it is within the first 60 days of racing.
By way of example, and for further clarity:
Entering on/or before August 4, 2020:
- 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 February 1, 2020 through March 19, 2020, or until the current date when the horse is being entered.
Entering after August 4, 2020:
- 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.
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 declarations, from February 1 to March 19, 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 February 1, 2020 through March 19, 2020, except when otherwise determined by the Judges, pursuant to Rule 17.10 (h).
17.10 Starters and also eligibles for overnight events shall be drawn by lot from horses properly declared to start,
except as follows: 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 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 February 1, 2020.
The Registrar waives Rule 12.09, so that a horse making a break in or coming off a qualifier can declare into any type of race or event. In instances where a horse makes a break in two consecutive races, it will still be required to qualify.
12.09 A horse making a break in or off a qualifying, matinee or schooling race must qualify again unless the break was an equipment break or caused by interference, or unless the horse is declaring into an Ontario Sires Stakes or other added money event.
Safety Sensitive Positions:
On March 13, 2020 the AGCO released an Industry Notice announcing the temporary halting of breathalyzer testing due to COVID-19. This will continue to be in effect, and Rule 36.01 will continue to be waived until restrictions are lifted.
36.01 A licensee in a Safety Sensitive Position is prohibited from […]: (d) Performing activities of the Safety Sensitive Position at a licensed facility while having a BAC of .02 or higher.
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.
Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse Rule Amendments:
As a result of stakeholder feedback, there will be no change to Thoroughbred timed workouts at this time.
The overweight limit will be temporarily increased from five (5) to eight (8) pounds for Jockeys.
TB 8.04.02 Eight (8) pounds
Five pounds is the limit of the overweight any horse is allowed to carry but an allowance may be waived with permission of the Stewards to comply with this rule. (See Rule 8.10). However, an owner or his/her representative may, in the absence of sufficient allowances, request an overweight in excess of eight (8) 5 pounds. The Stewards may grant such request if they believe it is in the best interest of racing.
QH 8.04.02 All horses in Quarter Horse Racing must carry from 120 lbs. up to and including 130 lbs. An overweight allowance limited to eight (8) lbs.
5 lbs. (Eight five pounds) is allowed. All jockeys must declare their weight prior to riding the first race on any racing card and must ride at that weight for all races on that date. The afore mentioned weight must be posted prominently before the public prior to the mutuels opening for any race in which any jockey rides.
On March 13, 2020 the AGCO released an Industry Notice announcing the temporary halting of breathalyzer testing due to COVID-19. This will continue to be in effect, and Rule 15.24.04 will continue to be waived until restrictions are lifted.
15.24.04 All riders must provide a breath analysis sample no later than one hour before the post time of their first mount. Upon request, and at the discretion of the Stewards, the one hour testing requirement may be reduced.
The AGCO will closely monitor horse welfare during this time, and penalties will apply to any trainer who races a horse who is unfit, at the Racing Official’s discretion.
To that end, the amendments above will not impact rule 29.04: A trainer shall be responsible for the condition of a horse trained by him/her and it shall constitute a violation of the Rules for a trainer to knowingly enter a horse that is unfit. It shall also constitute a violation of the Rules for a trainer to race a horse with defective, worn out, or unsafe equipment.