04/04/2008 12:00AM

Ontario-bred restrictions tightened


What is an Ontario-bred?

That question will be asked a lot this spring as the province's Thoroughbred industry adjusts to a new definition and requirements.

On the website of the Ontario division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society,

cthsont.com, a separate link reveals the new definition: "A registered Ontario-bred is a registered Canadian-bred, foaled in the Province of Ontario, out of an Ontario-resident mare, registered with the Horse Improvement Program."

The requirements to be an Ontario-bred were tightened up during the winter. Previously, an Ontario-bred was considered any horse foaled within the province and registered with CTHS.

The recently revamped Horse Improvement Program, which had not undergone any kind of stringent review for more than 30 years, was restructured from last fall through February by a panel of 15 members of the Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and rapidly growing Quarter Horse industry.

A significant aspect of the program is the new mare residency requirements for 2008, which state that the mare must foal in Ontario, plus:

a) Be a resident of Ontario by Feb. 15, 2008, or

b) Be a resident of Ontario for 75 consecutive days surrounding date of foaling in Ontario, or

c) Be bred back to an Ontario sire registered with the Ontario sires stakes program in 2008, or

d) Have been purchased (or reserve not attained) at a recognized sale or purchased privately and arrive within the boundaries of Ontario no later than 30 days after the date of purchase.

These conditions apply to the 2008 foaling season only. To qualify as a 2009 resident mare, the entry date requirement will be Oct. 1, 2008, or 150 consecutive days surrounding foaling or breeding back to a 2009 Ontario sire stakes stallion. The other criteria will remain the same for 2009.

"What prompted the mare residency [requirements] was that the Quarter Horse industry was starting a program, a very strict one," said Jeff Begg, a vice president of the Ontario division of the CTHS and owner of Windways Farm in King, Ontario.

"The Quarter Horse industry is essentially starting from scratch, because Ajax Downs just got slots, so we thought we would take a look at a Thoroughbred residency program," said Begg. "And there had been complaints from some of the bigger, more commercial Thoroughbred breeding operations in Ontario with regards to the Ontario-bred definition - for instance, they ask how can a horse be considered an Ontario-bred if the mare comes up here, foals, the foal stays five days, and then they both leave?"

Begg said many breeders believe they have not been rewarded as much as the racing division since slot machines were put in place at Woodbine in 2000.

"The breeding industry seemed to be getting the short end of the stick with the programs and the funds," said Begg. "The racing is very strong."

Begg said the mare residency requirements will reward people who invest in the Ontario breeding industry but is not as tough a program as other jurisdictions.

"I looked at many programs in the United States," said Begg, who admitted the process of coming up with the program rules was a tedious one. "Ours is very liberal; it is not as stringent as some of the others. But I'm happy with it. It is going to be positive for the industry."

Canadian-bred winter winners

Highlighted by the success of Sugar Swirl, horses bred in Canada did well in graded stakes races during the winter months.

Sugar Swirl, a mare owned and bred by Stronach Stables, won three consecutive graded stakes at the Gulfstream meet, including the March 29 Shirley Jones Handicap, a Grade 2 event.

Trained by Brian Lynch, Sugar Swirl is by Touch Gold and is one of just two foals from the deceased Distinctive Pro mare Astrapi.

For the second consecutive year a Canadian-bred won the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park. On March 29, Maren's Meadow, bred by Ted Burnett's Josham Farms Limited, won the 1o1/16-mile race for Sandra Rasmussen's River Ridge Farm.

Maren's Meadow, who is being pointed to the Woodbine Oaks in June, according to trainer Larry Jones, is by Meadowlake out of Gold Liaka, who has produced Woodbine stakes winners Chamul and Golden Path, both of whom are now producers.

The Sam-Son Farms homebred French Beret won the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes at Fair Grounds in January and was recently second in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Stakes there.

A Broad Brush gelding, French Beret is out of Wonder Where Stakes winner Misty Mission and has a promising 3-year-old half-brother named Cross Every Bridge.