Any Rules of Racing and process changes outlined in this information bulletin will be effective April 21, 2018, unless otherwise indicated. The Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will release amended 2018 Rule books this summer.

April 4, 2018 - The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is pleased to release a suite of reforms as part of the “Moving Ahead: Horse Racing Regulation in Ontario” project.

These rule and process changes reflect the AGCO’s commitment to promoting integrity and safety, protecting the public interest, helping to reduce the administrative burden for participants, and contributing to the government’s ongoing efforts to support the sustainability of Ontario horse racing.

This package of reforms reflects the work of:

  • The Equine Drug Program Working Group;
  • The Health and Safety Working Group; and,
  • An AGCO internal review of the Rules of Racing, with the objective of updating the rules to reflect the current state of industry practices and reducing the administrative burden on licensees.

Equine Drug Program Reforms

The Equine Drug Program Working Group was announced in May 2017, in collaboration with the Canadian Pari-Mutual Agency (CPMA), and met five times over a period of seven months.

As announced on February 8, 2018 in the Equine Drug Program Working Group’s Summary Report, the AGCO is introducing a number of measures which will streamline the AGCO Equine Drug Program processes. These changes include the following:

  • The Penalty Guidelines are being updated, to better reflect the severity of equine drug violations and better protect equine athletes;
  • The Race Official’s review of a positive test will be a more efficient process;
  • Standardization of the process for offering settlements for most drug violations with early admission; and,
  • Horses will no longer be automatically suspended for 90 days following a positive test.

Additional details on all process changes can be found in the Working Group’s Summary Report, and in other materials found on a new AGCO webpage dedicated to the AGCO Equine Drug Program. Included on the webpage participants can find:

  • A process map of the revised AGCO Equine Drug Program, which provides a visual description of the new positive test process;
  • The updated Penalty Guidelines; and,  
  • Information on positive test violations and rulings (to be implemented in late spring of 2018).

The AGCO Equine Drug Program Rule changes and the new Penalty Guidelines can be found in the Directives.

Health and Safety Working Group

The Health and Safety Working Group was announced on September 15, 2017, and met four times over the course of five months.

The Working Group played a valuable role in advising the AGCO on ways to enhance health and safety for both equine athletes and human participants, and in identifying opportunities for the industry at large to act collectively on a range of prominent issues.

The Working Group’s Summary Report, released March 7, 2018, may be viewed online on the AGCO website on the ‘Moving Ahead’ project page. Based on the recommendations of the Working Group, AGCO is introducing two changes:

  • Standardbred Rule 6.52 and Thoroughbred Rule 15.37, related to extracorporeal shockwave machines, have been modified. Effective April 21, 2018, only veterinarians licensed by the AGCO can possess and use such machines under specific conditions.
  • A new Standardbred Rule 6.54 and a new Thoroughbred Rule 15.39, address the use of blood gas machines. Effective April 21, 2018, only veterinarians licensed by the AGCO may use blood gas machines on a racehorse and the use of machines is restricted to valid diagnostic procedures. The use of a machine on a racehorse must be recorded and maintained as part of the record for a horse.

The health and safety rule changes can be found in the Directives.

Rules of Racing Updated to Reflect the Current State of Industry Practices

The AGCO has also taken the opportunity to reflect on the current state of industry practices and is updating the Rules of Racing accordingly. Across the two rule books, sixteen (16) rules which are no longer in use are being removed and twelve (12) are being updated to better reflect current practices. A number of the changes are expected to help reduce the administrative burden on industry.

These rule changes can be found in the Directives.

AGCO Official Race Reports

In 2017 the AGCO launched a Race Reports pilot project, and today the AGCO is pleased to announce the expansion of the program to all racetracks in Ontario, as each racetrack becomes operational in 2018, starting with Woodbine Racetrack on April 21, 2018.

The pilot was initially launched at The Raceway at Western Fair in April 2017, and over the course of the last eleven months, the AGCO expanded the pilot to include Woodbine Mohawk Park, Flamboro Downs and Rideau Carleton Raceway.

The Race Reports include details on in-race calls made by AGCO Race Officials and other insights impacting each race card. Daily race reports have been advocated for by the betting public for additional wagering insights, and by participants for improving consistency.

Details on the outcome of the 2017 Race Reports pilot project, including feedback received from industry through a recent survey, will be released in the Spring 2018 issue of the AGCO’s Race Line  newsletter.

A big thank you to the racetracks that supported the 2017 Race Reports pilot.

Racing Reform Phase 2

Later this year the AGCO will launch Phase 2 of its multi-year racing reform project.

This second phase of reform will focus on modernizing the Rules of Racing to better align with the AGCO regulatory framework; progressing towards a more risk-based, outcomes-based and compliance-focused model. 

The AGCO is committed to ongoing collaboration with industry stakeholders, and therefore will establish formal engagement and advisory processes to ensure industry input is reflected in future reforms.

In the months ahead, there will be further communication regarding Phase 2 of the reform process.


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