Updated on 09/16/2011 7:02AM

Horse society comes to aid of breeders

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As a new Thoroughbred season gets under way at Woodbine, members of the industry look forward to yet another year of high purses, impressive wagering figures, and plenty of slot machine revenue.

So now is the time, said Glenn Sikura, president of the Ontario division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, to concentrate on helping the breeders in the province take advantage of the thriving industry.

"We have some catching up to do," Sikura said. "Every part of the industry is going up and up, while the price of yearlings is going down. If you sell a good horse by a good sire and you raise him properly there's no reason why you should go to a sale and take a beating."

Sikura was referring to last year's 18 percent dive in yearling average at the Woodbine selected yearling sale, an event that has sparked several changes to the racing and breeding program for 2002.

A 12 percent purse increase for maiden allowance races and allowance races was implemented starting on opening day, Saturday, a move that Sikura believes will help level the playing field between the allowance and claiming ranks.

"I believe in having healthy and strong claiming ranks but not at the expense of the other racing," said Sikura. "I think it's really important that we put on some quality in our product."

The CTHS once again will pour millions of dollars into the local stakes program. It also raised the purses of several Ontario-sired stakes and added 10 new $100,000 Canadian-bred overnight stakes. It has also increased its breeders' award program by 10 percent in each category.

The CTHS's latest move to encourage buying at the yearling sales is the implementation of a trainer's incentive bonus for the Sept. 2 yearling sales stakes.

The winning trainers of the six stakes races for yearling sales graduates will each receive a $15,000 bonus, as long as the horse was not claimed.

"We need the trainers at the sales, we need their support," said Sikura. "We think we sell a good enough product and the trainers should be there."

In the area of racing, Woodbine introduced maiden allowance races and nonwinners-of-two allowance races that are restricted to Ontario-sired horses, a boost to the local breeders.

"After the yearling sales prices were down, alarm bells went off with breeders," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's racing secretary. "We wanted to give the breeders a chance to get some of the money back. If you have bred or purchased an Ontario-sired yearling you have two restricted races, which offers combined winners' purses of $70,000."

Evans said that the two Ontario-sired race conditions will also help the Ontario stallion market.

"The thinking is, if you are breeding your mare to [U.S.-based] Storm Cat or Seeking the Gold and dropping the foal in Canada, you probably don't need a restricted race in Canada," said Evans. "The offspring of Ontario-sired stallions will benefit more [by the new races for Ontario-sired runners]."

* The CTHS 2-year-olds in training sale is back this year, but will be held about three weeks earlier than last year, on May 16. Juveniles in the sale will be stabled in the receiving barn on the west side of the Woodbine grandstand.