06/27/2016 3:05PM

Q&A with Adrian Munro, Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society vice president


The Queen’s Plate is a showcase event for Canada’s Thoroughbred industry, putting a spotlight not only on the best of the country’s home-grown racing product but also its breeding program.

While much of the attention will be focused on Ontario’s contribution to Canada’s Thoroughbred industry over Queen’s Plate weekend, the country has a broad spectrum of programs reaching into the western provinces, each with its own contributions to the national product and challenges to face.

Adrian Munro is vice president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s national office, which represents Canada’s Thoroughbred breeders and determines the requirements for Canadian-bred status of foals. He also is the president of organization’s Alberta division, which organizes sales and distributes funds from the province’s Thoroughbred Breed Improvement Program, among other responsibilities.

Munro is CEO of Highfield Investment Group, a multi-pronged Alberta-based company that stands Cape Canaveral at Highfield Stock Farm south of Calgary and young sire Exhi at Park Stud in Ontario.

Munro discussed Canada’s multi-layered breeding industry, the relationship between Ontario and the western provinces, and the issues those provinces are currently tackling.

How would you assess the current state of Canada’s breeding industry?

Canada is very similar to the U.S. in that it’s very regionalized. Each region has its own particular challenges and opportunities.
Ontario has its challenges with instability and changes to the funding model for Ontario Sire Stakes races. We see the same thing regionally in Alberta and British Columbia.

Here in Alberta, for example, we were able to secure a new funding arrangement with the government and sign an amendment to our memorandum of understanding for sharing of slot revenue at racinos.

Our 10-year agreement expired at the end of March, and we’ve been able to extend that agreement for another 10 years. However, we do take a funding hit in the out years of the agreement as compared to what we’ve seen for the last 10 years.

Part of the issues that we had with our breeding industry here is we didn’t have a long-term arrangement, and obviously we are having issues with our second “A” track facility, Northlands Park, who intimated they would like to exit the horse racing business, which puts us at a little disadvantage going forward with only one “A” track in Alberta [Century Downs, a harness venue scheduled to begin hosting Thoroughbred cards in 2017].

B.C., on the other hand, has done a very good job marketing and promoting the industry, but without the stability of a long-term agreement, breeding has been slow to react to the programs they have in place, and they’re doing a very good job pushing those agreements forward that hopefully will allow breeders to get back into the game.

Regionally, we have our challenges, but stability over the long-term will allow us to grow our breeding industry.

Ontario is such a focal point in Canada’s Thoroughbred industry, whether it’s racing, breeding, or year-end awards. Do you notice any sense of “little brother complex” among the western provinces toward Ontario?

I wouldn’t say there’s a “little brother complex” in western Canada. Each of the jurisdictions, whether it’s Alberta, Manitoba, or B.C., have their own awards. The Sovereign Awards obviously reward the quality of racing that Ontario has put in place, and rightfully so. They deserve the attention. They have a quality program there and put out a quality product on the racetrack.

It’s up to each of our jurisdictions to figure out how to increase our quality so we can compete with Ontario, and until we do that, they rightly deserve the credit they have for the product they put in place. We in each of our jurisdictions have to increase our quality and prove that our product can run not only locally and regionally, but also across North America. Until we do that, we probably should have a bit of that small brother complex, and we should really be pushing to increase our programs, increase our stability, and increase the quality in each of our programs.

What are some of the differences between standing a stallion in Ontario and western Canada?

It goes back to our comments about being regional. It is amazing the regional differences that exist in this country. What makes you successful in Alberta doesn’t seem to resonate from an advertising and promotions perspective in Ontario, and vice versa.

Each region has its own characteristics, and it is a big learning curve when you go from one jurisdiction to another in order to be successful. There doesn’t seem to be any crossover. Trust me, I scratch my head every day trying to figure out what we’re doing right or doing wrong.

The focus in western Canada, because for the most part we run on bullrings, is on speed. When we look for a stallion to stand here, we look for a stallion that is speed-biased. They seem to play well regionally in western Canada. You’ve got to compete regionally before you can compete nationally, so focusing on what’s required for each of our jurisdictions is our mandate, rather than looking for that turf/synthetic pedigree that may play well in Ontario when you’re an Alberta breeder or B.C. breeder.

Which of the provinces has the most potential for growth going forward in the next five to 10 years?

It all comes down to stability and funding models. Alberta is pretty poised to grow from where we are today simply because we have a 10-year agreement. We have our challenges with “A” tracks, but if we can solve those, we are very well-positioned for growth.

B.C. has very strong leadership, both at the CTHS and the breeders’ levels, and other levels, whether they be Hastings, or Glen Todd and his organization. They have a tremendous amount of leadership that won’t led B.C. be stagnant and will look to grow B.C.

Then obviously, Ontario is Ontario and they’ll figure it out. They’ve got a strong base, they’ve got strong breeders there, and they’ve got some political will that will hopefully allow them to grow. I think every jurisdiction has an opportunity for growth, it’s just things have to be right and you need strong leadership throughout the horsemen’s organizations to position ourselves for that growth.

:: Visit DRF Breeding Live in the coming days for more from Adrian Munro’s interview