Clinton Raceway expects word on 2013 season by month’s end

File photo courtesy of Clinton Raceway.

File photo courtesy of Clinton Raceway.

HEATHER BOA Bullet News CLINTON – This summer’s harness racing season should be hammered out by the end of the month, says Ian Fleming, who is the manager of Clinton Raceway.

With the March 31 deadline looming for the end of Slots at Raceways program, Clinton Raceway and other raceways across the province are waiting for confirmation on their 2013 race dates and transitional funding formula to continue operations and maintain attractive purses.

“I’m still confident we’re going to race, but I haven’t seen it on a piece of paper,” Fleming said. The announcement has been delayed over the past month, probably as a result in recent changes within the Liberal government, he said.

Clinton has applied for 19 race dates in the 2013 season, which is the same as 2012.

“What it boils down to is there are a bunch of jobs in Ontario that rely on racing and the government needs to decide what it’s worth to keep those jobs,” Fleming said.

In January, the province reached an agreement in principal for transitional funding with the province’s largest racing venue, Woodbine Entertainment Group to keep the tracks open at the Woodbine and Mohawk as the industry adapts to a more sustainable model.

In order to receive transition funding, racetracks will have to meet accountability and transparency requirements.

The opposition New Democrats wrestled $50 million in transitional funds from the Liberal government in exchange for not voting against the 2012 budget and thereby keeping the minority government alive. In October, the transition panel appointed by the province concluded the horse racing industry needs provincial funding to remain viable. It will require less than the $345 million yearly it received under the Slots at Raceways program, the panel said, but exactly how much money the horse racing industry will need won’t be made public until negotiations between the province and the horse racing industry are complete.

Fleming predicted there won’t be enough money to go around but said, “You never know with the government. Maybe they’ll come up with more or maybe they’ll decide to give less.”

“The past eight months have really been a bouncing ball. You don’t know what’s going to end up happening,” he said.

One way or another, the breeding season is coming up and horsemen will need to decide shortly whether to invest in the future of harness racing.

“They really need to know by the end of the month,” he said.

Fleming, who owns broodmares, isn’t changing his breeding plans in the face of uncertainty. While he admitted his costs may be lower because he keeps the horses on his Central Huron farm rather than boarding them elsewhere, he also said he’s always look at as “the glass is half full rather than half empty.”

Activity is quiet in races in which the horses are also eligible to be claimed for a fixed price. Few horsemen are replacing stock that has been claimed or sold until they know what’s going on. Some have left the business, too.

“There are less horses in the country today than there were six months ago, for sure,” Fleming said.

Last month, the Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLG) struck lease agreements in principle with eight racetracks, including Clinton Raceway.

OLG provided the site holders with a Letter of Intent, which sets out the general terms, subject to approvals, between the site and OLG.

Clinton Raceway, which has operated for 42 years, employs 70 people at the height of racing season, and has 32 horse people.

Written by on February 26, 2013 in Central Huron, Clinton - No comments

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