04/05/2002 1:00AM

Plans proceed for Ontario sales and training center


Ontario may get its first training and sales facility. Members of the Ontario Thoroughbred and Standardbred industry will meet near the town of Milton in the middle of April to discuss the purchase of a parcel of land that might become the site.

Dr. John Brown, a director of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario division), is leading the charge for the construction of an industry center that would have a one-mile dirt track, an inner turf course, hundreds of stalls, and a sales pavilion with offices.

"This year there were four thousand applications for stalls at Woodbine and there are two thousand stalls," said Dr. Brown. "Why would people buy a horse? Where are they going to put it? It's a very limiting situation."

"There's only one solution," he added. "Build an off-site center within a half-hour of the track so people can truck in to race and we can sell horses there."

The CTHS has teamed up with Standardbred Canada in search of a sales facility because the Woodbine sales barns, located beside the pavilion, are needed to house racehorses. Currently, the racehorses are relocated when a Thoroughbred or Standardbred sale is held.

Dr. Brown said that with the help of all of the industry groups, a new sales facility and training center could benefit the business.

"I think this would do more for the industry as a whole than virtually everything that has been done [in recent years], including the slots."

Dr. Brown estimates that about $8 million is needed to build the sales area, including 40,000 square feet of office space. That figure would double if a training track center were built.

"There are two things that people are going to have to get used to," Dr. Brown said of the project. "They have to get used to shipping in to race, and they're going to have to pay for stalls. But if they go to one of the packed training centers around here, they have to pay anyway."

Dr. Brown also envisions office space in the new facility for the Ontario Racing Commission and Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, and perhaps other breeds.

"This is a multi-billion dollar industry and $16 million [to build the facility] is like pocket change," he said. "I can think of absolutely nothing negative [about the project]."

Woodbine was reportedly interested in purchasing land last summer to build a training center in order to ease the stall problem, but the track's main focus instead has been the purchase of Hastings Park racetrack in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"The CTHS and Standardbred Canada are in the same boat," said Dr. Brown. "We'll initially start building the sales area unless the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Ontario Harness Horse Association, and/or Woodbine Entertainment push ahead with the training center at the same time."

The CTHS holds an annual sale of 2-year-olds in May at the Woodbine pavilion and Fasig-Tipton, which was signed on by Woodbine last fall, operates the selected and mixed yearling and breeding stock sales in September.