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VOLUME 3/ISSUE 2 2017 $2.95 CDN

LIVING THE HORSE RACING LIFESTYLE

FRANK BEING FRANK

FRANK STRONACH TALKS ABOUT BEEF FARMING, THE STATE OF RACING, THE PEGASUS AND MORE

JOHN VELAZQUEZ

‘JOHNNY-V’ TALKS CANDIDLY ABOUT THE HORSE RACING INDUSTRY

JIM LAWSON

WOODBINE ENTERTAINMENT’S CEO LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 2017 RACING SEASONS


A WORK OF ART ‘Two Champions’

Havre de Grace with Ramon Dominguez up. 24” x 36” oil on canvas by award-winning artist Debbie Sampson, and featured on the Front Cover Of PONIES 24-7, VOLUME 2/ISSUE 4 8”x10” matted print $25 11”x14” matted print $45 16”x20” matted print $150 (All prices are in US funds and do not include delivery) All prints are limited edition, signed and numbered by the artist and autographed by Hall of Fame Jockey Ramon Dominguez Original available for purchase and also signed by Ramon Email Debbie@artsports.com for more information. A percentage of the proceeds to benefit The Permanent Disabled Jockeys Fund To order your autographed print go to www.artsports.com or Email Debbie@artsports.com


At The Post

Adolph Simon Ochs’ name may not be that familiar to our readers, however the Cincinnati, Ohio native was probably one of the most renowned American newspaper publishers of his time! Ochs you see owned and published (yes back then you wore two hats, probably more) ‘The New York Times‘ and with borrowed funds took the paper from a losing proposition in 1898, to one of the most innovative, and more importantly for him anyways, solvent papers of its time. Adolph however is probably better known for adopting the slogan ‘All The News That‘s Fit To Print’, refusing to publish articles and advertisements for that matter that could be considered in bad taste. Instead, his paper promoted the need to talk about the good and he insisted that his writers abide by this belief as well.

Over the past while I have been fortunate enough to conduct several thought-provoking interviews with various influential members of the horse racing industry, and each and every time the discussions seem to filter back to the same issue at hand- namely when it comes to much of the media covering the horse racing industry now, too much time is being spent focusing on the negative stories that continue to ‘rear their ugly heads’ within the business! Now I’m not saying that as an industry, we need to try to hide our dirty laundry, but unfortunately just as an example, when a trainer that gets caught with a positive test, receives more ‘ink’ or even shares the media stage of a Javier Castellano, who recently ‘4-peated’ when he won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey, then there seems to be a bit of a disconnect, which at the end of the day, is of no benefit to anyone! Maybe horse racing in general needs to take a page out of Adolph’s book and try to only concentrate on the positive stories while coming to ‘grip’ with the fact that once you publish, or ‘go live’ so to speak, it’s pretty fair to say that what is done, is done and almost impossible to retract! Sure you can post a retraction later, but hasn’t the damage already been created? With this being said, it was almost two years ago, when we originally launched PONIES 24-7, introduced with the goal of not only promoting the good news stories, but at the same time, to utilize it as the needed launch pad to create new fan support, and hopefully, eventually ‘bring’ new ownership into this great ‘game’. I might add too, that the impetus of the company, a Racing Club, devised to bring fresh blood into the industry as new owners, is almost a reality as we move forward with the program, and perhaps when we talk next, it will be up and running! However with this being said, we continue to do our part, and not to be like other mediums that find it necessary to open up another ‘can of worms’ when it comes to promoting the unsavory news, it remains our intention to continue to give major ‘press’ to those stories that ‘are fit to print’! Bottom line, you can’t control who is actually reading the news, and for all we know someone who was maybe

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considering an ownership opportunity in horse racing, after reading something negative, ‘beats it to the hills’ so to speak! Adolph Simon Ochs seemed to be on the right track, pardon the pun, when he ‘pressed’ forward with ‘The New York Times’, and took it from a money-losing proposition, to one of the most respected brands within the newspaper industry, and to be fair about it, this was in the late 1800’s. But have things really changed that much? Maybe not, it was probably more gentler and less competitive times when the whole idea back then was to sell papers, and at the same time make ’The New York Times’ the newspaper of choice, a paper that was only interested in promoting good over evil! Sharing bad news so to speak, is never good, but it seems to be the route that some within the horse racing industry believe is the path to success, which in the opinion of this scribe is wrong. Things were different during the days of Adolph Ochs; it was all about making a ‘buck’ and promoting the business you were part of, and you accomplished this by doing whatever it took to sell newspapers, in his case recognizing the importance of only covering good news stories. Simply, no one back then cared about reading negative press! Nowadays though, well let’s face facts, you have an industry that is competing for the entertainment dollar and rather than do what it takes to ‘engage’ new fans in a positive manner, some seem to be continually focused on promoting the negativity surrounding our sport, believing that this is what people want to hear. Believe it or not, this type of attitude continues to backfire as constantly people are driven away in droves. I’m thinking that if Adolph were still alive, he would pretty much say, ‘smarten up’! As you advance further in this issue of PONIES 24-7, you will have the opportunity to read various contributions to this magazine where there is nothing negative said when it comes to promoting horse racing. Be it an interview conducted with Frank Stronach, Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson, or Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Velazquez, all stories resonate with nothing but positive ways to promote horse racing, and build a new fan base and hopefully a new group of breeders so that in 20 years time, the remaining media still has an industry to talk about. Likewise, our features on Vernon and Tioga Downs, our Aftercare Groups, and from a regional standpoint our loyal car dealership, Gateway Chevrolet, who have all contributed to this issue, only reflect this positive course that we continue to move in. I think in a way, if Adolph Simon Ochs was still around, he would be proud of this ‘positive direction’ as we attempt to steer the ‘good ship’ PONIES 24-7! Until next time Larry Simpson lsimpson@ponies247.com

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2 | 2017

LIVING THE HORSE RACING LIFESTYLE

EDITOR: LARRY SIMPSON Larry Simpson is an avid and passionate writer, horseplayer, handicapper, and marketer of both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. He has published and edited several horse racing journals, conducted handicapping seminars for both breeds and is a major proponent for the education of new racing fans through publications like PONIES 24-7, and initiatives that develop ‘fresh’ demographics for racing, produce cultured bettors and promote the value of the horse racing advertising space!

LIVING THE HORSE RACING LIFESTYLE Volume 3, Issue 2 March/April, 2017 Publisher & Editor Larry Simpson Online Editor Kelly Simpson Art Design Darryl Melo Atomic Arms Studio PONIES 24-7 Magazine is published by PONIES 24-7 Inc., and distributed bi-monthly across North America to racing fans, racetracks, racing associations equine supporters and those devoted to the love of horse racing. The contents are published as a matter of news, information and entertainment only and reproduction in whole or in part are prohibited. TO SUBSCRIBE, VISIT www.ponies247.com ABOUT THE COVER Frank Stronach, a Visionary Extraordinaire. Photo courtesy of Stronach Stables


Contents

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FRANK STRONACH Horse Racing Icon Now Tackling The Beef Industry

LARRY SIMPSON

JOHNNY VELAZQUEZ Hall of Famer Speaks Candidly About Horse Racing

LARRY SIMPSON

JIM LAWSON Woodbine CEO Reflects On The Past, Focusing On The Future

LARRY SIMPSON

CHRISTINE MAGEE Sleep Country Canada’s Co-Founder Is Not Sleeping On The Job

LARRY SIMPSON

GATEWAY CHEVROLET Horse Racing Roots In The Community

LARRY SIMPSON

CIMERON COUNTRY ESTATE Combining Luxury, Estate Living And 50 Acres Of Horse Paradise

LARRY SIMPSON

CANTER SUCCESS STORY Reggiville Reincarnated

SHELBY HARRIS

A YEAR OF CHANGE FOR TIOGA AND VERNON DOWNS IN 2017 An Update On The Two New York Harness Tracks

JUSTIN HOROWITZ

AFTER THE FINISH LINE New Fundraisers Planned For The Upcoming Racing Season

DAWN MELLEN

OUR MIM’S RETIREMENT HAVEN Happy To Be Of Service

JEANNE MIRABITO AND CHERYL A. BELLUCCI

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COVER STORY

Getting FRANK With FRANK The Stronach Group’s Founder Talks Horse Racing, The First Pegasus, And His New Agricultural Business

Frank Stronach photo by Jork Weismann

Already considered a visionary when it comes to horse racing, Frank Stronach is now in the beef farming business, and having spent millions of dollars on the operation including the purchase of 95,000 acres of land in north central Florida, you could say that he is all in! Recently, Frank sat down with Larry Simpson, PONIES 24-7’s Publisher, where he discussed his new venture into the field of agriculture, and of course horse racing as well. LARRY SIMPSON: Frank you have owned and bred many champion race horses, developed several outstanding racetracks and above all this, what is most important is that you have remained a ‘fan of the game’. Now your raising cattle! Perhaps explain to our readers how this new vision to become a cattle farmer came about? FRANK STRONACH: I guess you could say that I have always been somewhat of a farmer at heart! As most people already know, I was heavily involved in the automotive industry and built Magna up from scratch to a $35 Billion company, but

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to be honest, I really wanted to get into farming more as I have always had a passion for it. And you could say that farming is somewhat related to horses as well! LARRY SIMPSON: But why beef cattle? FRANK STRONACH: Well Larry, I actually did give it a lot of thought, but I guess the deep philosophy is that we all know that animals are subservient to mankind, but even if something is subservient, it doesn’t mean that you need to treat them in a cruel fashion! Up to now, I think that we have continued to raise animals then kill them in an unkind manner, so with our agricultural activities, our performance principle is that there is no pain to the cattle, or animals in general, with no stress, antibiotics or hormones. They are all raised naturally! LARRY SIMPSON: How many head of beef cattle do you currently have Frank? FRANK STRONACH: I think all together including ‘momma cows’ somewhere between seven and eight thousand.

LARRY SIMPSON: And what would you like to see that number increase to? FRANK STRONACH: Well I built the most modern meat processing plant in the rural area of Fort McCoy, and the way we have it laid out we could process 30,000 head a year, which is not really a huge plant by industry standards. However, our cattle are never locked up, never harmed and graze always free range. We have also engaged Temple Grandin (Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University), one of the foremost animal rights activists in America as an advisor, so I think you could say that we are somewhat using her own system that promotes humane agricultural practices. LARRY SIMPSON: With the cattle being naturally raised and totally grass fed, what would you say would be the advantage to the consumer? FRANK STRONACH: There is an old saying that ‘we are what we eat’, and I believe that we currently eat a lot of chemicals. I know when I was a kid, I don’t recall people having food allergies, but now they


LARRY SIMPSON: What about supplying the non-Stronach-owned racetracks, could you see the day Frank when Adena Farms could be the major beef supplier to horse racing?

Frank says that currently they have somewhere between seven and eight thousand cattle on the farm. Photo by Russell Martin Photography

are very prevalent, and I really think it is because there are too many chemicals in the production of the food we eat. I want to change this process and produce healthier food for the consumer without chemicals! LARRY SIMPSON: How is the meat itself? FRANK STRONACH: The meat is leaner and it contains quite a bit of Omega 3, which you normally only find in fish. People find it tasty and seem to like it! LARRY SIMPSON: Has living a healthy lifestyle always been important to you Frank? FRANK STRONACH: I like to splurge from time to time, but normally I’m a pretty disciplined eater, but once in a while I will step over the line. (Laughs) LARRY SIMPSON: But isn’t one of the advantages of the grass fed, free range beef that you are raising, is that it will help contribute to a healthier lifestyle for people? FRANK STRONACH: Yes, actually we are raising two types of beef, one is purely grass fed and we do have a second line that also get some grain added to their diet but the important thing is that I want to raise the animals without the use of hormones and antibiotics. LARRY SIMPSON: Now I have read that with traditional grass fed ranches, because it takes longer to raise

the cattle for market, you can only process around 200 cattle a year. Is this a problem for you? FRANK STRONACH: It does take a little longer to ‘fatten them up’, as you do need a lot of land and it also depends on the quality of soil that you have. Our facility is capable of processing about 400 a week, but what actually takes the time is building the herd. LARRY SIMPSON: The Adena Farms beef brand is currently only available at the golf courses, racetracks and restaurants you operate in Florida. Will the remainder of The Stronach Group racetrack properties be offering it soon? FRANK STRONACH: Absolutely! We are currently just working on some of the logistics but I can see that happening in the near future. LARRY SIMPSON: And you are also considering operating a ‘farm to table’ service, with the launch of your own supermarket chain to sell the beef? FRANK STRONACH: Yes I’m in the process of building some retail supermarket shops called Adena Farms Quality Meats & Fine Food. Looking down the road I hope to have them all over America but for now at least, over the next two years we will concentrate on southern Florida. And hopefully too, over this same time period, you will see some open in Canada as well.

FRANK STRONACH: Right now I honestly don’t know. Much depends on how quickly our supermarket shops come on board, and then it will become a supply and demand situation- if there is excess meat that could be sold elsewhere, then we will consider this as an option. LARRY SIMPSON: Changing directions, another one of your visions was having your Gulfstream Park host the world’s richest horse race in the form of the $12 Million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. With the first one now in the books, did the event reach the important new and younger demographic that you were hoping to attract originally? FRANK STRONACH: We do hope that Pegasus day attracted a younger demographic, but honestly, our tracks are constantly working at engaging new fans every race day, and not just days like the Pegasus. But more important, one area that I also wanted to reach out to was the families, as I can remember when my kids were young, and they’d always say to me “Oh no, not the racetrack again!” They would get bored so that’s why at Gulfstream we have continued to build attractions like a shopping mall out front and a major family entertainment park with some rides. And in the future we will be adding a family park with a museum, a theatre, hotel and waterpark, basically features that will keep the families entertained while they also enjoy a day at the races together! LARRY SIMPSON: How about your regular customers, was there any criticism at all surrounding Pegasus day? FRANK STRONACH: There was some criticism that the price of our tickets was too high, and I will need to speak with management on this. I do think too that we may discover that the

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Premium Dining Room table tickets might need to be priced higher, but at the same time, we also have to work at having the regular customer get in to the track at a lower price. LARRY SIMPSON: So at the end of the day Frank, were you satisfied with the success of the first Pegasus event? FRANK STRONACH: I think overall it was a good event considering it was the first one, and I believe that we will be able to learn from it and fine tune it for next year! LARRY SIMPSON: Was it the ‘big event’ for horse racing that you originally envisioned? FRANK STRONACH: Definitely! It was a ‘very big event’ and I think a very exciting day but that’s what the sport is all about! You know, the greatest thing about horse racing is that it can be a great equalizer from time to time, as you don’t always have to be ‘rich’ to win a big stakes race. Horses can come from all types of bloodlines and win, which when you think about it is really pretty amazing. A horse race is a horse race, and horses are not machines so anything can happen, and that’s what makes the sport so exciting! LARRY SIMPSON: And it certainly didn’t hurt the excitement level with

your own Shaman Ghost finishing second? FRANK STRONACH: No it didn’t. We thought he was a good horse, just maybe a little unlucky so far, and I think that he will show that he is a little better than what he has shown up to now. (Note-For the record, just days after this interview was conducted, Frank’s faith in Shaman Ghost was validated when he was victorious in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita.) LARRY SIMPSON: You mentioned earlier that ‘new fan engagement’ is a top priority for The Stronach Group racetracks, and I think that you would agree, other North American tracks also. Frank, moving forward, in your opinion what does the horse racing industry need to do to develop and engage these new racing fans? FRANK STRONACH: Racetrack owners need to come to the realization that people have a lot of choices for entertainment and gambling. Years ago, horse racing was the only game in town, but now with competition, we need to make going to the racetrack more comfortable, provide good food and make horse racing a pleasurable experience again. Where else can you go, and have some fun, have a good meal, watch some horses and maybe even come home with

Never a stranger to the winner’s circle, Frank leads Ghostzapper after his Breeders’ Cup victory . Photo by Adam Coglianese

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a little more money than what you went in with? At the same time too, we have to educate people on betting, so that they are not losing the ‘grocery money’ so to speak! We need to collectively spread the word that horse racing is a great sport, and create new ways to attract the younger generation. It is also necessary, as we have done, to provide family entertainment with shopping and create places for kids to have some fun so that they don’t get bored, which I think is very important to their future interest in horse racing. LARRY SIMPSON: So both your Gulfstream and Santa Anita tracks are pretty much the models for increased family entertainment? FRANK STRONACH: We are still looking at further entertainment options for Santa Anita, while with Gulfstream as I mentioned earlier, we have a few things planned which we believe will help engage younger fans and families. LARRY SIMPSON: A couple of issues back I interviewed Nate Newby of Santa Anita, and he mentioned that one thing that helps attract younger people to the track is the close proximity of Hollywood and the many celebrities that can be seen visiting the track, and Mike Nyman of Gulfstream Park agreed, where in his case he has many sports celebrities attending the races. In both cases, these celebrities have a large social media following, which tends to attract the younger crowds to the racetrack with a ‘wanna hang with them’ attitude. Being located in hotbeds of entertainment and sports, certainly gives these tracks a competitive edge, would you agree? FRANK STRONACH: Obviously both are sitting in large sports and entertainment markets, but you know, Maryland is now really becoming a ‘horse state’. LARRY SIMPSON: Actually, that’s where I was going with the question; can you see the same concept of attracting new fans that you have Continued on page 10


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Larry King makes the Breeders’ Cup trophy presentation to Andy , Elfriede and Frank Stronach. Photo by Horsephotos.com

Continued from page 8 in place at Gulfstream and Santa Anita, spilling over to your Maryland racetracks? FRANK STRONACH: We have a concept on paper and are continuing to evaluate future plans for the Maryland tracks, but I can honestly say that we want to create something similar like Gulfstream and Santa Anita, and make the horse racing experience great in Maryland as well! LARRY SIMPSON: I think it also helps that there has been a rebirth of racing within the entire state of Maryland? FRANK STRONACH: Tim Ritvo our Chief Operating Officer and Sal Sinatra (Vice President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club) have both done a great job to prove to the public and the horse lovers that we really care. The two have worked tirelessly at increasing the popularity of horse racing in Maryland and have increased the fan base quite a bit as well. LARRY SIMPSON: And you even have a harness track in Maryland now, with your purchase of Rosecroft Raceway last year?

FRANK STRONACH: Yes we took it over mid last year so you could say that we are still in the assessing stages of what plans will be made to it moving forward. LARRY SIMPSON: In my first issue of PONIES 24-7 I interviewed former hockey player Eddie Olczyk and now an NBC broadcaster, and one idea that he had to help provide a future longevity for horse racing would be to hire a full time commissioner, someone as he said, could help to

Frank’s faith in Shaman Ghost was validated with his recent victory in the Santa Anita Handicap.

‘galvanize’ the entire industry together and move it forward. Do you believe that a commissioner would improve horse racing in a collective manner? FRANK STRONACH: Why not, other sports leagues have one! Horse racing is not unlike hockey and baseball, so I would think that if anything, collectively it would bring our sport more to the forefront from a marketing and promotion perspective. It’s a good idea, but the Commissioner selected would obviously have to be a strong type of person. LARRY SIMPSON: Could you see yourself in that role? FRANK STRONACH: (Laughs) Even though I think I’m in pretty good shape physically, as I still play tennis and ski, I think I would like to see maybe a younger person in the position. LARRY SIMPSON: So a clone of Frank Stronach then? FRANK STRONACH: (Laughs), I think the idea is good and has a lot of merit, as right now all the tracks and associations pretty much do their own thing. We could hire a neutral person that asserts some authority and direction, which will help the industry in general to improve, especially when it comes to promotion.

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LARRY SIMPSON: Recently you were awarded the E.P. Taylor Award of Merit, which will be presented, to you at the Sovereign Awards in Toronto in April. This had to be a great honor to be recognized by your peers? FRANK STRONACH: It is nice Larry, as I think I am constantly thinking of new ways to improve the sport of horse racing for the fans and also for the people that are involved. LARRY SIMPSON: I think too, one thing that makes this award extra special is the fact that it isn’t handed out every year! FRANK STRONACH: It will be nice to receive it and I hope one of these days, when I’m not around anymore, that people will say that Frank Stronach made a contribution to horse racing! (Laughs) LARRY SIMPSON: Frank, do you remember the first time that you visited a racetrack and you said to

yourself, I want to be part of this horse racing industry? FRANK STRONACH: When I started Magna, I think I was working 7 days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, and had a little money in the bank, and because I liked cowboy movies, I thought I would like to have a riding horse. I bought the first one that I saw and was riding him that afternoon. The guy I bought it from had a few Thoroughbred horses, and he took me to the races at Woodbine one day in 1963 and I was hooked. I found it exciting and bought myself a yearling and for me horse ownership was a great equalizer, as I am a believer that you should have some interests that nourish your heart, your mind and your soul! To me, horse racing became that great equalizer! LARRY SIMPSON: Back then did you ever visualize that you would be where you are today in the horse racing circles?

FRANK STRONACH: No way! I was struggling with a small business, but you know Larry, horses are wonderful creatures, they have personalities and of course they have made a great contribution to the civilization of mankind. So that’s what I’m doing at Gulfstream Park, I built the monument that honors and respects the horse. LARRY SIMPSON: Plus horses should be very easy to promote, as almost everyone likes them! FRANK STRONACH: That’s right especially young girls; therefore the female market should be easy to promote going forward. I kept my daughter Belinda involved in horse racing, and obviously her thinking is a lot younger than mine, but with that being said, together we will continue to keep coming up with some new concepts that we believe will attract the younger person to the racetrack, and give them a fun and entertaining racing experience!

Frank flanked by daughter Belinda and Grandchildren Nikki and Frank.

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HORSE RACING PERSONALITY

Photo by Lauren King/Adam Coglianese

A Candid Discussion With JOHNNY VELAZQUEZ The Man They Call ‘Johnny-V’! By Larry Simpson PONIES 24-7, Publisher

The financial worlds loss became a win for horse racing, and winning is what the Carolina, Puerto Rico’s Johnny Velazquez has done a lot of throughout his successful riding career. ‘Johnny-V’ as he is commonly referred to by racing fans everywhere, says that the desire to become a jockey started early; actually it was his early teens like at 14, but says he had to wait another two years until he was 16 to enroll in the National Jockey School. Obviously the waiting period for school to begin was trying enough, however the now Hall of Fame Jockey says that it was always in the back of his mind that as he waited, he just might grow too tall for the saddle, which luckily for his and horse racing’s sake didn’t happen. Winning over 5,000 races so far in his career can certainly attest to this! But did he always want to be a jockey? He says that the desire to ride was always there, but was brought out more when he started at a young age ‘hanging around’ with a couple of riders from the local track in his hometown. “After watching

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them ride, I thought that this would be my future as well,” he states, “but I pretty much had to learn the ropes by scratch since I had no family in the horse racing business, and except the local racetrack, I knew absolutely nothing about the sport, especially the North American horse racing scene!” Johnny says he can’t really point to one individual that he could call a mentor, he feels like he had many. When he was starting out, he was lucky to have good teachers at the Jockey School, and someone to look out for him, a former rider by the name of Eddie Belmonte, and also a Puerto Rican native. This tutelage led him to his first mounts as a professional jockey, in January 1990 in Puerto Rico. Johnny was always advised that if he ever had the opportunity to ride in New York, to take it. After just two months of riding at El Commandante, such an opportunity indeed presented itself, thanks to his agent Tico Garcias and his friendship with Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., also a native of Puerto Rico. So on March 14, 1990, Johnny was on his way to join Angel on the larger New York circuit. Being

the new kid anywhere can mean that at the beginning mounts can be tough to come by and for Johnny things weren’t any different in New York, but recalls vividly that after about three weeks of riding he was able to secure that all-important first North American win. (For our readers who are in to racing trivia, his first win ever was January 3rd, 1990 in Puerto Rico, on a horse by the name of Rodas.) He says that ‘business’ in New York eventually improved thanks to the tutelage of Angel Cordero Jr., who took him under his wing, and then a short time later upon retirement, would become his agent. The latter would be one of the catalysts that would propel Johnny and have him well on his way to making it in the ‘big leagues’! “When I first came to New York, I started to figure things out better. I was pretty ‘green’ as a jockey so to speak, as I had really only been following horse racing full time since 1988 when I was at the Jockeys School. I didn’t know anything about riding styles of other jockeys, but after I started living at Angel’s, I pretty much came to the realization that I


wanted to ride just like he did! He looked very agile on the horses and I think I looked a little similar to the way that he rode as well in those early months. When I broke in to the New York Circuit, there was a tremendous riding colony there at the time-Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith, Jorge Velasquez, and of course Angel Cordero for example, and you could watch these jockeys and learn something from each one of them on a daily basis. So I think I probably was lucky to be able to take some of the ‘best’ from them, practiced what I saw, and then developed my own riding style from there.” Considered tall by jockey standards, was this a hindrance for Johnny trying to break into the racing business? “ I think it was more difficult for me (being tall), as there was always people on the outside that kept reminding me that in their opinion, I was too tall to be a jockey and would never make it! I think, you maybe develop a little bit of a complex, but on the other hand, for me anyway, these opinions actually pushed me to work harder and prove them wrong and I believe overall, they actually made me a better rider!” He adds that now in order to keep in good ‘riding shape’, he spends some time Photo Credit - Coady Photography

on the exercise bike. “I actually hate running, “ he says, “for the year and a half I was in the jockey school, I was running five or six days a week just to help keep my weight down, and I didn’t like it all. Besides riding the bike now I will jump rope, and work on keeping the heart rate up, and I still exercise quite a few horses in the morning, so combined with riding in the afternoon, I can keep myself in pretty good shape!” With more than 5,000 victories as a professional jockey, it must be difficult for Johnny Velazquez to single out one special memorable moment, or is it? “There’s been a few, but I think for me it was when I first came to the United States, and people would say to me, ‘Oh, you’re a jockey, have you ever won the Kentucky Derby? ‘ I think you soon realize just how important winning a Kentucky Derby is not only to a rider, but to horse racing as well. I was fortunate in 2011, to pick up the mount on Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby, and win my first one. It was quite a thrill but to be honest with you, I also feel very blessed that I have had the opportunity to travel the world and ride a lot of great horses throughout my career!” A question that I like to ask most of the riders that I have an opportunity to interview is whether they prefer riding on grass or dirt, and many are in favor of riding on turf, as for Johnny? “I really don’t have a preference, I actually leave it to the horse,” he says. “I think you try to adjust whether it is turf, dirt or even polytrack as we now have at certain tracks, and you hope that the horse is feeling good and performs well and fits the surface. That’s the horse that I want to ride! All a jockey can do is ride on the surface provided, try to adapt to it, and do their best! “ For our Canadian readers

and speaking about turf courses, how does ‘Johnny-V’ rank Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor course? “It’s one of the best grass courses out there, and it’s great to ride on,” he states, “I love going to Woodbine and riding especially on the turf, as it is maintained so well. Horses seem to like it also, and actually I have found it very rare when they don’t like the Woodbine turf course. It’s more of a European style with wider turns and can be very forgiving for us jockeys!” Currently Johnny Velazquez is Chairman of The Jockeys’ Guild, a position that brings with it much responsibility. What exactly does his role with the Guild include? “I pretty much have to be handson with everything that happens in Thoroughbred horse racing across the Country, along with Terry Meyocks, our General Manager, and our counsel, Tom Kennedy and Mindy Coleman, we handle everything from medication issues, or insurance claims, you could say anything that has to do with the jockeys in each State. As well as spending time ‘mentoring’ the up and coming riders especially when it comes to explaining about some of the risks involved in their chosen profession, and the dangers that sometimes arise on the racetrack itself. It’s very important and to their benefit that they are aware of the role that the Guild plays throughout their career and understand that they do have insurance and other benefits should something happen to them. Actually, we all benefit!” What would be his first reaction to a young person that wanted to become a jockey? “My first reaction would be to tell them to stay in school and at least have your high school diploma. Also it’s not a bad thing to go to college, and then they have something to fall back on if things just don’t work out. However, if they are serious about becoming a jockey, I would suggest that they get a job in the morning and start working around the horses, and

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Johnny winning the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard Rags To Riches. NYRA/Coglianese Photo

put more emphasis on the bad news than the good, which I think is sad. We have a great and very exciting sport but the majority of our media tends to concentrate too much on the negative stories that surround the industry, and this in turn drives people away from horse racing!” You participated in the recent Pegasus World Cup, do you think that this event was a positive step in promoting horse racing and attracting new fans?

Union Rags (3) and Johnny victorious in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. NYRA/Coglianese Photo

then find someone that will give them an opportunity to get on the horses as an exercise rider. From there, it becomes a learning experience, and trust me, they will find out that it is not an easy job riding horses in the afternoon, as it comes with its challenges and obviously some risks as well. “ What about promoting and marketing horse racing in the future, besides utilizing the jockeys more, what else can be done? “I think we (the industry), need to learn to promote ourselves better, be more proactive, and get extra television coverage and then find someone, be it a jockey, an owner or a trainer, or even a sports celebrity, that people like to follow. I honestly believe that this will help attract new and younger racing fans, which is the key to racing’s future. I think too that it is important to copy other sports, and try to get endorsements and promotions for horse racing’s stars, which then helps to give racing year-round appeal, exposure and momentum and essentially will help pave the way in developing a new fan base as well. I think from a media point of view, it is very important that we stop promoting the negativity that surrounds the sport, as this doesn’t do anything to attract new fans. Unfortunately as an industry in general, we seem to

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“I think it was and we as an industry need to do more events like the Pegasus. Bringing in Conor McGregor for the pre-race promotion was great as it introduced a group of new people to horse racing, and these were people that maybe would not have been even aware of the sport originally. The rest of the horse racing industry should use this type of event as a ‘springboard’ and build on the idea, but the problem is, collectively we don’t seem to do it. We don’t cash in enough on something positive like the Pegasus or the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup, instead the event happens, and then it’s gone for another year! These events generate great exposure at the time, but unfortunately it becomes a short window of opportunity and promotion. Here’s a good example of how I think long term promotion is lacking- I live close to Belmont Park, and my kids go to school nearby, and if I go to an event at one of their schools other parents will ask me ‘When do you ride again?’ Except for maybe the Belmont Stakes, they have very little knowledge about when we race and sadly, they probably only live maybe a mile from the track itself. So as an industry we just aren’t doing enough to promote ourselves! If things were different though and I played for a New York based sports team, people would definitely know me and when I played. But unfortunately horse racing continues to take a back seat to the mainstream sports!” Finally what does Johnny Velazquez do in his spare time, when he’s not riding?

“I like following the stock market and learning more about it on a daily basis. I have always been interested in finances, and even when I was growing up I thought that if things didn’t work out for me as a jockey than I would become an accountant. I do follow baseball a bit and I have a good friend who is a huge hockey fan, so I started ‘hanging’ out with him more and I do get to go to some of the games. It’s a sport that I think you definitely need to see live, as it gives you a better appreciation of the speed of the game, something that you just don’t get when you watch it on television!”

Photo credit - Coady Photography


you’re invited

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to the

nd

Annual Sovereign Awards

Thursday, April 13, 2017 Palais Royale, Toronto, ON Tickets: $250 each plus tax, Special Rate for tables of 10

DAVE LANDRY

Early Bird Ticket Special available until March 15, 2017 To purchase tickets contact 416.675.7756 | jockeyclub@bellnet.ca www.sovereignawards.ca


Photo by Michael Burns

JIM LAWSON Woodbine CEO Reflects On The Past Year, With A Focus On 2017 By Larry Simpson

Aww, late March. A time when thoughts turn to baseball and an imminent Opening Day, milder weather, and if you’re Woodbine’s CEO Jim Lawson, it’s time to talk about a new Thoroughbred racing season at Woodbine, and the annual pilgrimage to Mohawk by the “trotters.” One notices a touch of excitement in his voice. He’s anxious to build on a decent year for the company, based on industry standards, and a past season that saw Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), try a few things differently in order to slowly chisel out new customers in a very competitive marketplace. Recently Jim discussed the trials and tribulations of surviving in a competitive entertainment field, which is the cost of doing business in the Toronto area, and some proposed changes we can expect from his Woodbine and Mohawk facilities, with PONIES 24-7’s Publisher Larry Simpson. PONIES 24-7: Jim were you satisfied overall with the 2016 racing season for both of your racetracks? JIM LAWSON: I was. However you

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probably detected the slight hesitation in my answer, as I can honestly say that we continue to be part of a very difficult environment. I would say that the real concern remains the breeding industry and the lack of horse supply. I was satisfied though, especially with our management team, as despite these constant issues, I believe that they were able to keep field sizes at a relatively good level for us. PONIES 24-7: Wagering on the Thoroughbred product seemed very positive though last year, how about on the harness product? JIM LAWSON: Per race harness handle was about even year over year. We’re buoyed by the Mohawk season which saw record handle and attendance for the Pepsi North America Cup. Our fans and horse people really do appreciate that meet and we’ll continue to develop it as the years go by. PONIES 24-7: Back to Woodbine, what was the general feeling overall about the new Tapeta racing surface? JIM LAWSON: I think that clearly it was a learning experience with the Tapeta. We started with rave

reviews then less enthusiasm from the horse people because the track was producing very fast times. The point here is that last year we made a conscientious effort to learn more about the Tapeta surface, to the point that by the end of the racing season, horsemen were very positive, and especially in agreement that the track was better than the old polytrack, especially when the temperatures got colder. PONIES 24-7: Another experiment was with clockwise turf racing, will we see similar races like this again in 2017? JIM LAWSON: We’re still monitoring that, but we pride ourselves of being innovative and in introducing new products that we feel will benefit the horse racing industry, and hopefully attract new customers to Woodbine. With this being said, I believe that the clockwise turf racing did achieve what we had hoped it would do, and for this season, we plan on working with the horsemen over the next couple of months to see what changes or improvements can be made to the races themselves. It was an experiment, and at the end of the day, we need to work together, as we


are in the entertainment business, whether people want to appreciate that or not. We need to find inventive ways to attract new fans and work together with our owners, trainers and jockeys to make Woodbine a more entertaining place for our customers. PONIES 24-7: As you may have noticed Jim, we have been working with The Jockeys’ Guild whereby we are starting to feature jockey articles more in PONIES 24-7, and what is interesting is the way these top riders continually compliment the E. P. Taylor Turf Course after riding at Woodbine periodically. You and I have had this conversation before, about how Woodbine has become known for providing excellent turf racing, so could we maybe see the day when Woodbine may card days of all turf races, or even more grass racing throughout the season? JIM LAWSON: Actually to be honest, we feel that we are at the limit right now. One problem too is that you can’t predict the weather, so you could write extra turf races and if it rains then you have scratches, potentially smaller fields and this hurts the wagering. We are trying to move to three or four turf races a

day and one of the things that is no secret is that we are studying single breed facilities at both Woodbine and Mohawk, which potentially could lead to a second turf course here someday. We are very conscious about the fact that racetracks that seem to do well, card a lot of turf races, and our E.P. Taylor Course is second to none, but one of the reasons why it is one of the top turf courses in North America is because we look after it and it is not abused. Part of the Woodbine turf course is very old, in fact it was the original Marshall Turf Course, and it can get pretty ‘beat up’ and with safety our number one concern, you can only push its usage so far. We do try and run 10 to 12 races a week on the grass, as it’s popular with our horseman and our wagering fans including simulcast players all across North America. PONIES 24-7: Last year what turned out to be a successful experiment and a way of attracting a new and younger fan base, Woodbine created a festival like atmosphere with paid admission, concerts and other events on Queen’s Plate Day. It was recently announced that for this year, they would be holding a Queen’s Plate festival over two days now, correct?

JIM LAWSON: Yes, this seems to be the direction racetracks across North America are going for their big race days now. Also it is consistent with the theme of trying to expose our sport to as many potential fans as possible and compete for that valued entertainment dollar, while at the same time make the younger generation aware that there is an opportunity to have a great fan and guest experience at Woodbine. You see this type of festival experience happening everywhere now, and in particular I think that Gulfstream did an excellent job with the Pegasus in January, with the type of crowd and demographic that they were able to attract. We feel that in order to get the people out to Woodbine, and compete for that sports and entertainment dollar, you need a festival style of presentation. An announcement will be made shortly on a headliner band to play on the Saturday night before the Plate, and we have also some music planned for after the race on Sunday. In addition, there will be a large Hats & Horseshoes party, which worked well last year, and once again ideally the goal is to have 35 to 40,000 people on Plate Day, and I think that we will get there as it is evident now that the

Last year Woodbine experimented with a festival like atmosphere which resulted in attracting record crowds on Queen’s Plate Day. Photo by Michael Burns

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Marketing and providing that guest experience to a new generation are essential to preserving the future of horse racing at Woodbine. Photo by Michael Burns

Queen’s Plate is becoming a “go-to” event. Also, there is a long term view as well, that if you don’t expose the sport to this younger generation, the future will be pretty bleak when it comes to attracting new breeders and owners into horse racing. So you could almost say that our whole approach to marketing and providing that guest experience to a new generation, are things that Woodbine Entertainment Group, feels as an industry leader, are necessary in preserving the future of horse racing here. PONIES 24-7: What about the North America Cup at Mohawk this year? JIM LAWSON: Again, the same idea, with a paid admission this year and adding some music headliners. We are in a difficult economic environment and what we are trying to do with both the Queen’s Plate and NA Cup is to attract a new customer, because if we don’t it becomes hard to predict where the new investment in this industry will come from. PONIES 24-7: Jim, would you say that more than ever, that Woodbine seems to be focused on developing a new demographic and doing whatever it takes to get that new person in the door? JIM LAWSON: I would, as besides what we just talked about with the festival atmospheres for the Queen’s Plate and NA Cup, we are also going to experiment with Friday Twilight

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Racing this year, which will begin the week after the Queen’s Plate in July and run over eight weeks. We also plan on focusing on our patio, food and beverage and the guest experience that we can provide, through some special Woodbine Weekends promotions. Hats off to our Guest Experience and Marketing people for coming up with a number of unique campaigns this season. PONIES 24-7: I know simulcasting and especially attracting that remote bettor, remains very important to Woodbine. Were you satisfied with the growth of your simulcast product last year, and can you see some growth and expansion to the remote betting market this year? JIM LAWSON: Our growth is definitely into the U.S. market, and I believe that there is still some room to grow. Our products have been very well received and we feel that one reason for this success is that we race on Saturdays and go head to head with all of the major racetracks. Also, the Woodbine brand is well respected, because of our turf course, the integrity of our racing products and the quality of racing. PONIES 24-7: Jim, Woodbine recently released their stakes schedule for the upcoming Thoroughbred season, and there was some criticism where a couple of the major stakes races had their purses cut. Obviously there had to be some reason for doing this? JIM LAWSON: Economics. We do

our best in attracting horses and for our horsemen, so we need to make decisions that we believe are good for sustaining the business. It is easy for people to be critical, however if you pay everything out in purses, then we wouldn’t be reinvesting into the future of our business. Woodbine actually paid out $112 Million in purses for both breeds last year and we are continuing to work under a very difficult model and are doing our best to educate our stakeholders on the economics of running a racetrack, but our primary role is to make sure that this business is around for another 20 or 30 years. That’s actually one of the reasons why we are developing the real estate project here at Woodbine, where hopefully in a few years there will be some additional revenue streams to keep the horse racing industry going. Make no mistake about it though, this is a very difficult business to run, but I am confident that we have the management team in place now that understands this and is doing a very good job at running it efficiently. PONIES 24-7: Which leads me to my next question Jim, what is the update on the Woodbine infrastructure changes and are there any new developments at Mohawk? JIM LAWSON: In terms of Woodbine, we continue to work cooperatively with the City of Toronto planners, and it is an exciting project that will have a major economic impact on the area in the new jobs that it will create, both in construction and long term. It’s very positive, and the catalyst behind it all is the gaming expansion and the Request for Proposal by the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) is due this Spring, and I believe the plan is to select the winning proponent in the Fall. This is just a small portion of the overall development, but it happens to be an important piece moving forward. The reason I say this is because we are also working on a 5000 seat plus music auditorium which I think we will get the go ahead but it will only move forward provided that there is major expansion right adjacent to it in terms of the gaming, food and beverage,


THEY’RE BACK!!

Live Thoroughbred Racing Returns To Woodbine Photo by Michael Burns

Saturday, April 15th (Post Time- 1:00 p.m. EST)

Come Early For The Jockey Meet & Greet (12:15-12:45 p.m.) * Live Music *Your First Bet Is On Us A Total Of 133 Live Thoroughbred Racing Dates HIGHLIGHTED BY A SPECIAL TWO-DAY QUEEN’S PLATE FESTIVAL ON SATURDAY, JULY 1ST AND SUNDAY, JULY 2ND

Including Live Racing. Concerts And Canada Day Celebrations on Saturday, With More Concerts Planned, And The Running Of The 158th Queen’s Plate On Sunday, With A Special Post Time Of 12:00 p.m. EST. *Also A Full Complement Of Turf Racing Throughout The Season Including Several Graded Stakes Events Over The World Renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course;

*Multiple Betting Opportunities That Offer HUGE POTENTIAL FOR PAYOUTS; *And Of Course, World Class Racing Over Our Tapeta Surface, So Our Track Is Never Sloppy!

World Class Racing, Stakes Excitement, And A Diverse Betting Menu, We Are Your Best Bet For Entertainment!! For more information visit WoodbineRacetrack.com Follow us on twitter at @WoodbineRacing and use our official hash tag #BetWoodbine

Don’t Forget To Join Us May 6th For Our First Ever Exclusive Kentucky Derby Party, And Celebrate “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”! For Ticket Info, Visit WoodbineRacetrack.com


retail and convention center. In other words, it is imperative for the gaming expansion to move forward, and the rest of the pieces of the project will fall into place. We also have a master plan to redevelop part of the land around Woodbine to include athletic fields, and even a residential community. It’s all very exciting, and in my mind, this is what is going to save horse racing in Toronto, as our only mandate now is to direct the revenues from the real estate development back into sustaining the horse racing industry. As far as Mohawk is concerned, over the next year or so you will see us winterizing and refurbishing the facility, to give us the opportunity to race there year round, if that is the direction we decide to move in. We are somewhat on hold right now, as we are waiting for OLG to privatize gaming at Mohawk, which will then spur on some development and economic activity, much like Woodbine. Mohawk has 440 acres of land, and only a certain portion can be

developed because of environmental reasons, but we are hopeful in moving forward, and having a good working relationship with the Town of Milton also helps us as well. The good news is that we have a longterm arrangement now with OLG at Mohawk, which should ensure that the track would be around for a while. PONIES 24-7: So then what is the status on year round racing at Mohawk? JIM LAWSON: It is still something that we are seriously considering, but I am always reluctant to say too much too soon. I think many horse people and the Town of Campbellville would be supportive. There was always a concern that if we raced year round at Mohawk, we would lose the Toronto wagering market, which is not true at all, as most of their betting is now done online. We believe that we can do a great job in marketing to attract the harness people to Mohawk, and of course our overall goal is to

create a guest experience similar to Woodbine’s. PONIES 24-7: Finally Jim, what do you think race fans can look forward to at both Woodbine and Mohawk in the 2017 racing season? JIM LAWSON: We are every excited about our events, as we now have a full time events team in place that we never had in the past. We have one full time person dedicated to events at Woodbine and one at Mohawk, and they are working on some great family oriented events at both sites. I’m excited also with the focus that we are placing on Mohawk this upcoming year too, which I think is a very positive development, and with both tracks, part of our directional shift is to become customer ‘centric’ with a major focus on our customers. We want to wow our guests with both great racing, and customer service.

Jim Lawson is excited about the focus being placed on the Mohawk guest experience this year. Photo by Michael Burns

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WORLD CLASS HARNESS RACING RETURNS TO MOHAWK

THURSDAY APRIL 13th (Post Time- 7:30 p.m. EST)

Photo by New Image Media

For Our Spring/Summer Championship Meet!

HIGHLIGHTED BY A SPECIAL CELEBRATION OF THE PEPSI NORTH AMERICA CUP ON SATURDAY, JUNE 17TH With A Special Post Time Of 6:30 p.m. EST. Live Harness Racing Monday, Thursday, Friday And Saturday Evenings Until November 6th! (Note- Tuesday Live Racing Added July 4th Through To October 10th)

**COME CELEBRATE THE START OF A NEW MOHAWK LIVE RACING SEASON WITH US ON SATURDAY APRIL 15TH *Live Music *Your First Bet Is On Us *Driver Meet & Greet (6:30-6:40 p.m.)

World Class Racing, Stakes Excitement, And A Diverse Betting Menu, We Are Your Best Bet For Entertainment!! For more information visit MohawkRacetrack.com Follow us on twitter at @MohawkRacing and use our official hash tag: #BetMohawk


THE HORSE RACING LIFESTYLE

PONIES 24-7: Are there any major differences between the Woodbine Board and Sleep Country Canada’s?

Christine Magee Woodbine Entertainment Group’s Board Member Can’t Be Accused Of Sleeping On The Job Sleep Country Canada’s co-founder Christine Magee has now settled into playing a very active role as a Board member for Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), where her business experience has proven valuable as the Toronto-based company continues to move forward in their quest to secure new markets and engage youthful fans for their horse racing products. Recently Christine spent some time with PONIES 24-7’s Publisher Larry Simpson to discuss the horse racing industry, planned changes to the Woodbine/Mohawk infrastructures, and of course Sleep Country, with the following interview transpiring. PONIES 24-7: Christine, you have been on the Woodbine Board now since August of 2015, has your role been everything you expected, or would you say that it has been more? CHRISTINE MAGEE: It has been more! Learning the industry, attending meetings, opining on policy, processes and updates are normal and expected, but I enjoy the complexity and excitement that horse racing brings. Plus, Woodbine’s future development plans that have been discussed publicly, should prove to be very meaningful to Ontario and the community it serves, which contributes to making it a rewarding board role. PONIES 24-7: Plus you have the new

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changes that will be made to Mohawk as well! CHRISTINE MAGEE: Yes, exciting changes to both locations should enhance the customer’s experience and create long term positive impact on horse racing in Ontario. PONIES 24-7: Moving forward can you see your position on the Woodbine Board changing at all? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I think our role is and will remain to preserve and enhance horse racing in Ontario including supporting the strategic initiatives of the management team to provide an exceptional and unique customer experience when one visits Mohawk and Woodbine.

CHRISTINE MAGEE: Yes and no. Woodbine and Sleep Country are by definition very different companies operating in completely different industry segments with different operating and strategic objectives. One is a public company entity while the other a private one. One retail, the other horse racing/entertainment. One highly regulated and the other far less so. Sleep Country seeks to assist the customer in getting a great night sleep through assisting and educating customers in the purchase of a sleep set and sleep related products and to earn their business now and in the future. Woodbine’s objective is to preserve horse racing and the industry that supports the sport while looking to evolve and develop its competitive positioning as an entertainment company. Although both companies have committee compositions that may be different, each of them serve fiduciary responsibilities of good governance and strategy. PONIES 24-7: Would you agree that the Woodbine Board might be considered more rounded than Sleep Country’s, as you have people like yourself that come from other business ‘walks of life’? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I believe that every Board pursues diversification so that a company can benefit from its diverse background, experience


and knowledge. Like Woodbine, Sleep Country also benefits from a broad experienced board drawing from backgrounds in finance, entertainment, packaged goods, HR and others. Attracting individuals outside of one’s particular industry allows a company to see itself through a different lens....challenging the status quo. It helps us validate strategy...or see a new way to address an opportunity or challenge. I think both boards have embraced the desire to attract a diverse and engaged board. PONIES 24-7: Christine, Woodbine and Mohawk are both coming off a very successful 2016 racing season with wagering increases overall, several record betting days including the Queen’s Plate, Woodbine Mile and North America Cup, and an overall rise in popularity with new visitors. What do you think accounts for this new interest in horse racing at the WEG facilities? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I believe Woodbine and its Management teams’ efforts to deliver a customer centric’ experience is working, while at the same time addressing the needs and investments at the track which engage the owners and trainers so they choose to bring their horses and race at Woodbine and Mohawk. They are creating and enhancing awareness through advertising, offering competitive race cards and focusing on the customer experience. As you know the entertainment industry is highly competitive and the efforts by the team to advertise and provide a unique and enjoyable experience is very important. PONIES 24-7: When we spoke last time you were considered one of the leaders in ‘personalizing the brand’ with Sleep Country acting as the company spokesperson. Now after your time on the Woodbine Board, do you believe that horse racing can take a page from the Sleep Country model, and personalize its own brand to become more successful? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I shared last time that Sleep Country’s strategy

to personify the company was a unique way to brand our company. It allowed a platform to explain our services, to reinforce the importance of sleep and to reinforce that our sleep experts (sales associates) will assist the customer in choosing the right sleep set to get a better night’s sleep. When we started the company, we also believed that the woman made the final decision in choosing which mattress they selected so it seemed natural that I would be the spokesperson, someone from the company and someone who was in our target market. Do I think Woodbine can use a similar strategy? Actually I believe there are a variety of ways and we were talking about this before the interview. Can you personify Woodbine or horse racing by promoting a personality, the jockey or the horse? Last time we discussed this I suggested that I thought Woodbine was using the customer experience in its ad campaigns to do just that. I think that it can be done, but I’m not certain that it is the only way! Personifying the experience so the customer understands what they will experience when they get to the racetrack, is a great way to personify the company and it seems to be working. PONIES 24-7: Christine would you agree that one of the keys to promoting and marketing the horse racing industry though is utilizing the jockeys and the harness drivers? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I would agree that it might be an interesting approach to consider. It may be very interesting for the customer to hear more about the ‘personality’ around ‘the racing’. We also discussed the need and impact of better understanding of betting and handicapping. To this end, Woodbine has been working with Ryerson University to explore new ways to be more ‘customer centric’ including a focus on millennials, and creating understanding and higher awareness. Some very interesting ideas came out of this, in terms of technology, data, handicapping. How do we blend all of the industry knowledge to improve the

customer’s understanding of horse racing, to motivate the customer to want to go to the track and become more knowledgeable when it comes to horse racing? Perhaps it is not only hearing about the drivers and jockeys experiences but highlighting some individuals that are knowledgeable in the handicapping process and can help share that knowledge. Similar to what you have done, Larry, by conducting seminars on how to bet at the races; so that individuals are less intimidated by an industry that they know very little about! PONIES 24-7: Christine I believe that you have hit the nail on the head, as intimidation has always played a major role in why people maybe don’t feel comfortable at the racetrack the first time they attend, and perhaps is a reason too why they don’t come back. Obviously with Sleep Country you have developed a very good marketing ‘mind’ so to speak, so keeping your marketing hat on for a minute, what suggestions would you have for horse racing in general moving forward to engage new fans, especially a younger demographic? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I think this is a critical question. At Sleep Country, we really did try to simplify our business strategy. We understand that execution is key to our success. We focus on: 1) top of the mind awareness; 2) providing an exceptional in-store experience and 3) providing an exceptional home delivery experience. Certainly there are many factors that go into each one of these three focuses in order for us to provide the quality and experience we want the customer to enjoy. With respect to horse VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2 | 2017

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“we were attracted to the mattress industry because it was a ‘needs based’ purchase”

shared decision made by a couple more today than ever. Also, we now see people younger than 25, who are far more aware of health and the importance of investment in sleep while the Baby Boomers continue to invest in quality sleep systems as we age. We do not want to limit ourselves to a single target market ... today more than ever we believe we have product and value that appeals to every age, every budget and every comfort level. PONIES 24-7: The market research that Sleep Country continues to do, would you say almost mirrors what Woodbine has been conducting over the past year or so? racing, I think the opportunity may lie with continued efforts to simplify the communication process around horse racing and encouraging the customer to wager for the first time. I like that Woodbine has engaged Ryerson’s entrepreneurial student based think tank groups to examine ways to appeal to millennials, by simplifying horse racing so it feels less intimidating and results in more and repeated engagement. Once the wagering process is simplified, over time people will become more engaged by learning and studying more, which should enhance their overall knowledge and ability to wager and increase their overall enjoyment. I believe this could very well bring new fans to horse racing ... but what do I know... I sell mattresses. PONIES 24-7: Another problem facing horse racing is the lack of new owners coming into the industry, obviously one leads to the other, as you need to get new fans first then get them interested in ownership. Down the road, as Woodbine’s efforts in attracting new fans starts to be rewarded, how do you think we can get people enthused more about investing in horse ownership? CHRISTINE MAGEE: That’s a great question. I believe that if we can create higher awareness and understanding for the horse racing industry and a desire to be involved may spur more ownership interest.

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As we discussed perhaps some kind of fractional ownership model could work, which would make it more affordable, attainable and enjoyed by many. That may just cause a juggernaut where more people will get involved! PONIES 24-7: Do you believe that horse racing ownership is a passion or an opportunity? CHRISTINE MAGEE: Right now I think that it is a passion as it stems from people’s existing knowledge, awareness and participation in the industry in the past. Going forward, I would hope that it would be an opportunity especially if the ownership model could include a financial gain and/or manageable investment so as to add to the owner’s enjoyment.

CHRISTINE MAGEE: Yes and it is very valuable. Throughout our history, as early as 1994, we did the same. We conducted focus groups before we started advertising and asked 3 questions: 1) what messages were they hearing? 2) did those messages matter to a potential customer? and 3) were they compelling enough to convince them to visit our store? We continue to use market research to test our ads, to assess our top of mind, our customer experience etc., and both quantitative and qualitative data. I believe Woodbine is doing the same by utilizing data and analytics to test their understanding of the market place and how it will serve their strategic plan.

PONIES 24-7: I remember watching an interview with you once where you indicated that Sleep Country’s primary market was a woman from 25 to 54. Does this age bracket still hold true for you and was it through market research that the company was able to pinpoint this primary market?

PONIES 24-7: As part of the Woodbine Board, you must be excited about the future, with the redevelopment plans for Woodbine, and the recent long-term lease agreement for gaming operations between Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG) and Mohawk. What impact do you think both of these initiatives will have on Woodbine as a company, and for horse racing?

CHRISTINE MAGEE: Initially when we started Sleep Country 22 years ago, that was the understanding of the market. I believe that today our understanding of the factors that influence a purchase decision is better. Who chooses the store, the budget; the final bed choice is a

CHRISTINE MAGEE: I think it should have a very positive impact. It should serve to broaden the offering from an entertainment perspective as well as attracting new segments of the population to horse racing which is very important. It signals a long term commitment to these two locations


which supports an investment of resources to optimize their operations which should serve both the communities and the horse racing industry. PONIES 24-7: In our last interview you mentioned that you thought that there were some similarities between the mattress industry and horse racing, do you still believe this? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I do, as both are highly competitive industries and customer service and execution are paramount to each. Word of mouth advertising is also very important to both our business as a great experience will be shared and will affect people coming back and telling their friends. However, that being said, one of the reasons we were attracted to the mattress industry initially, was that it was a ‘needs based’ purchase, if you don’t have a mattress, you need to buy one! We are not an impulse buy, absence of a mattress, or pillows ‘triggers’ a need to purchase in our category. Going to the race track to wager on a race is a form of entertainment. I understand if you are a horse owner, your motivation is different than the one who visits the track, but the business of attracting a wagering customer to the race track competes with the multitude of other forms of entertainment out there. That is why the attention to the customer experience that Jim and his team are focusing on is critical. Strategic investments to the track to attract great horses, owners and trainers improves the races which draws the crowds while the development plans to enhance the entertainment offering should help distinguish and promote Woodbine and Mohawk attractiveness. PONIES 24-7: You don’t seem to have a problem juggling a busy schedule on a daily basis, which includes running Sleep Country’s 237 stores across Canada and the 1,200 employees, plus your duties on the Woodbine Board. What’s your secret to time management? CHRISTINE MAGEE: Well to be

honest, I am now not involved in the day to day of Sleep Country having moved into the director /co-chair role. That being said, over the last number of years, I did wear many hats and I am not sure I have ever been good at time management or balance but certainly there are two factors that have contributed to my success. First attracting, developing and retaining a great team of talented and passionate professionals. It is hard to delegate, it takes time to train and develop someone... Building a culture of respect, reward and recognition is essential and it will permit you to grow your leadership team that shares your vision and passion while they assume more and more responsibilities. Secondly, it’s essential to have a personal support system, one that makes you feel good when things are tough, and to share the joys with when things go well, as no one can do it alone. PONIES 24-7: What does the future hold for Christine Magee? CHRISTINE MAGEE: Well I’m going to spend a lot more time at the racetrack! (Laughs) I think for me, probably doing more of what I am currently involved with. I really enjoy board work. I’m presently on three public boards, plus Woodbine

Entertainment Group, which is private, and a Hospital Board, which I find very fulfilling as well. That’s a pretty full agenda for me, but I’m enjoying it! PONIES 24-7: Finally, Christine, if you had a crystal ball and looked into the future of horse racing, what would you like to see most? CHRISTINE MAGEE: I would love to see more individuals understand and be more aware of the excitement that comes with horse racing, and to realize that there is something unique and close by in their community that has great entertainment value. Horse racing has so much to offer as a sport, with the collaboration of horse and rider, and has such a renaissance feel to it. I am hoping that with the proper awareness in the marketplace and the right dialogue that millennials will understand that there is something out there that is different, and that they can’t find in other sports. Horse racing is a thinking persons’ entertainment, with handicapping and all of the interesting and relevant historical data related to a horse or a rider. And of course, horse racing is fun. It is the heartbeat!

The new Sleep Country Canada Head Office currently under construction in the GTA.

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THE HORSE RACING LIFESTYLE

Gateway Chevrolet With Horse Racing Roots In The Community By Larry Simpson-PONIES 24-7, Publisher

John Reid is presently General Manager of Brampton based Gateway Chevrolet and besides having over 30 years in the automotive industry, he also possesses a horse racing pedigree of sorts, as his family traces back to perhaps one of the most illustrious Thoroughbreds in Canadian history. John’s mother you see, Joan Reid, and her sister Margaret Seitz, who was John’s aunt, were the owners of Cool Reception, Canada’s champion two-year-old in 1966, when he happened to ‘reel’ off seven consecutive wins including the Cup and Saucer and Coronation Futurity at Woodbine. In all, the ‘Champ’ won 10 of 18 lifetime starts and finished in the money 15 times. Pretty impressive you might say, however the legacy of the chestnut royally bred son of Nearctic rests more on a race that he didn’t win, but instead one where Cool Reception displayed probably the greatest amount of courage ever witnessed on a racetrack, anywhere, when he finished second in the 1967 Belmont Stakes. For our readers who do

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not know the entire story of Cool Reception, it was determined after the race that the gutsy colt had run the last 200 yards to the finish on a broken foreleg, where he finished second to the great Damascus. Obviously a story of Hollywood movie proportions, and an effort that his Hall of Fame Jockey Johnny Sellers was quoted after as saying “He finished the last sixteenth on pure guts!”

Unfortunately, there was no ‘Hollywood ending’ for Cool Reception, as even though he was operated on successfully days after the Belmont Stakes, the ‘gallant chestnut’ shattered the same leg in an accident and had to be euthanized. For John Reid’s mother Joan, and his Aunt Margaret, and Cool Reception’s trainer Lou Cavalaris, there was some validation for their colt, when in 2005 he was elected to the Canadian Horse


Racing Hall of Fame. With the Canadian Thoroughbred racing season fast approaching and the harness racing set well into theirs, John and the Gateway Chevrolet team, are set on continuing to introduce their ‘brand spanking new’ and state of the art facility and make an easier buying process and service experience for the customer! As part of a family with horse racing ‘roots’ John realizes the importance of continuing to enrich the horse racing lifestyle, and is a firm believer that the Gateway Chevrolet team will go that extra mile and make the buying experience more pleasurable for the equine customer. “Essentially”, John says, “ the horse racing industry is very similar to the automobile industry. With Cool Reception it took a good team, with a trainer, in his case Lou Cavalaris, his staff of grooms and hot walkers, and of course a jockey to help account for his successes on the track. Here at Gateway, we have that same ‘team’ experience, from time of purchase to after service. All parts of

the team need to be working on the same page, and I can honestly say that in our case our entire Gateway staff are the greatest proponents for our sales and service program and their efforts have been rewarded by us being designated the #1 GM Dealer in Brampton, Ontario.” Want to purchase or lease a vehicle and you live out of town, or at least more than 200 km’s. from the Brampton Gateway Showroom? “No problem” says John as Gateway Chevrolet offers overnight stays at the nearby Monte Carlo Inn to qualified purchasers or lessees, just a further example of the emphasis that the company places on the horse racing industry. “In some cases, horse racing can be a very transient industry, but we will make buying a Gateway vehicle as rewarding and as comfortable as possible, or at least make the drive to Brampton for them worthwhile!” The new ‘flagship’ store for all of the General Motors dealerships

in Ontario, Gateway Chevrolet is poised to make 2017 the year that they become the official provider of GM vehicles to the horse racing and equestrian community and invite you to find out about some of the specialty incentive and promotions they have planned “Cool Reception, with his record and such, ‘set the bar’ pretty high as far as competition and effort was concerned”, says John, “and here at Gateway, our bar is raised to these same high standards as well. Quality, service, attitude, Cool Reception would be proud!” For more information on Brampton, Ontario’s Gateway Chevrolet go to their web site at

www.gatewaychevrolet.ca

Gateway ChevroletYour Horse Racing Industry Auto Provider!

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SUCCESS STORIES

Reggiville Reincarnated… CANTER Michigan Goes Beyond Borders.

Ride and relax time… Reggiville and Shelby enjoying the sunshine during a Canadian winter.

By: Shelby Harris

At the beginning of 2016 I began my search for my new equine partner. Although I had an idea of what I was looking for —I didn’t expect to find it in Reggiville. I had always wanted a dapple grey, and when I posted an ad on various Facebook groups in search of my unicorn, a lady commented on my ad and said she had recently seen a listing for a dapple grey thoroughbred on CANTER Michigan’s website. Residing in Canada, I hadn’t heard of CANTER before, but decided to check out their page and search for Reggiville’s listing. The second I saw him, I fell in love with his eyes. I think I left three comments, two personal messages, one text message and a voicemail all at the same time. I was very eager to go and meet him. Previously, I was looking for a warmblood, well broke, with show experience, the whole nine yards. 30

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CANTER’s trainer was quick to call me back and give me some details on Reggiville. After the first few minutes of our discussion, it was apparent that he was not the horse for everyone. Given Reggiville’s long racing history and an injury he acquired during his last racing days, Reggiville required in-depth training and some serious TLC. CANTER was very adamant on finding him the perfect home that would be able to suit his needs. They did not hesitate to tell me everything I needed to know before applying for Reggiville’s adoption. Although I lived in Canada, Reggiville was only 1.5 hours away from me. Two days later I was off to meet him. The CANTER facility in Leslie, Michigan was a gorgeous dressage barn. Turns out, I actually knew the Jockey who used to race Reggiville and won with him at Hazel Park Raceway in 2014.

She was able to help me out with Reggiville during the first 30 days after we moved him to Windsor. The day I went to see him he was very hot tempered, but it was obvious there was a good heart in there. He had a certain look in his eye, as if to say “I’m guarded, but I want someone to love me”. After spending a little over an hour with him, watching him and lunging him, I had to apply to own him. It wasn’t a want, it was a need. Reggiville was not in the condition to be ridden and had some under saddle issues at that time — but it did not matter that I couldn’t ride him. He showed me everything I needed to see. A good racehorse has heart above all else, and if nothing else, he definitely had that.   Reggiville was very hot from being at the track for so long. Both under saddle and on the ground he was a


Reggiville sharing a special moment with his new BFF, Shelby Harris.

challenge. I was informed of all of this before I went to see him, but you never really know how much work a horse needs until you see them in person. Reggiville had issues with being ridden, being led, with the farrier, in the crossties and many other issues. This didn’t phase me. I could tell he didn’t want to hurt me, but he just didn’t trust me. Why should he? He didn’t know me, he had no idea I would be his forever home. After CANTER’s trainer gave me her approval, she gave me the paper work to fill out to complete my application.

SUCCESS STORIES blossomed. He was a completely different horse. Reggiville, on top of having beautiful movement and the scope you dream of, was so incredibly smart. Although he is a challenge day by day, having a horse like Reggiville trust you, and try his heart out for you, is a constant reward. Today, Reggiville is comfortably going around the ring in a consistent frame, without the fear from me that he is going to bolt or rear. Reggi is also jumping courses up to 1.00m. I am very excited to enter Reggiville into his first jumper show this season. During my time with Reggiville, his track owners found me on Facebook through a post on OTTB Connect. They have been able to tell me a bit about Reggiville while he was on the track and share

photos with me from his younger days! Not a day goes by that I regret the time and effort I put into this amazing boy. The best advice I could give to someone searching for an OTTB, is don’t overlook the messy ones. I think Reggiville knows now that he has a forever home with me, and I can’t thank CANTER enough for giving me the opportunity to spend my life with him. I still keep in touch through e-mail with CANTER Michigan, because I know seeing the progress of the horses they home is very important to them. Although I am not currently in the market for another horse, in the future when I am, CANTER will be my first stop during my search.

I took him home one week later. I was incredibly lucky that CANTER was able to provide me with the X-rays from Reggiville’s sesamoid fracture a few months earlier, and I also received his veterinarian exam papers, and JC papers. They definitely know how to match up the perfect OTTB to their new owner! When I finally began my work with Reggiville, I spent two to three months on ground work alone while tackling his weight. I think the time you spend with an OTTB on the ground under no pressure, is really crucial to the bonding and trust process. When it came time to work on our under saddle training, Reggiville

“I think Reggivile knows now that he has a forever home with me, and I can’t thank CANTER enough for giving me the opportunity to spend my life with him.”

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Racing at Vernon Downs as the sun sets. Photo by Ross Oder

CHANGES COMING TO TIOGA DOWNS AND VERNON DOWNS IN 2017

Revamped stakes schedule and High Definition among the changes By Justin Horowitz NICHOLS, N.Y. (March 1, 2017) – Fans tuning in to watch live racing from Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in 2017 will notice a major change on the broadcasts – high definition. The two tracks located in Upstate New York will upgrade their production to include high definition cameras and a new look graphics package. The changes should give both tracks a needed boost and make the viewing experience much more user-friendly for horseplayers. Tioga Downs has been converted to a full Las Vegas style casino that now offers table games, a poker room, and a new barbeque restaurant, in addition to 942 slot machines. As a result, purses will increase by 10 percent in 2017, offering horsemen even more incentive to race in the Southern Tier at New York’s only 5/8mile track.

the $175,000 (est) Crawford Farms Open Trot and the Joie De Vie Mare Trot. Both of these races were previously held at Vernon Downs, but will head south this season. The August 27 program also includes the return of the $175,000 (est) Artiscape Mare Pace to Tioga Downs and the Reynolds Stakes for freshman trotters. The Vernon Downs stakes schedule is headlined by the $350,000 Zweig Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds. The race date has been changed for 2017 from July to August 18, which provides a perfect spot for Hambletonian horses to race following the classic at the Meadowlands on August 5. The $500,000 (est) Empire Breeders Classic for 3-year-old New York sired trotters will kick off the major stakes action on June 18.

Vernon Downs will also host all 8 finals in the New York Sire Stakes Excelsior division in October. The next generation of harness racing fans and horsemen will come to Vernon Downs in July as the track will once again play host to the weeklong Harness Horse Youth Foundation camp. Youngsters will work hands-on with harness horses and locally-based horsemen. Vernon Downs begins its live racing season on Friday, April 21 with Tioga Downs beginning its season on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 6. For more information, visit www.tiogadowns.com and www.vernondowns.com.

The stakes schedule will also get an upgrade at Tioga Downs in 2017. Headlining the schedule is the $175,000 (est) Roll With Joe Open Pace on August 20. That card will also feature the $500,000 Empire Breeders Classic Finals for 3-year-old New York sired pacers, a leg of the Miss Versatility, and the Tompkins-Geers for freshman trotters. The following week will see the two biggest additions to the calendar –

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Rockeyed Optimist, winner of the 2016 Roll With Joe at Tioga Downs. Photo by Fred Brown


“The greatest victory for a Thoroughbred is not winning a race, but winning the race to live long past their days on the racetrack.” Since November 2007, After the Finish Line has awarded 476 grants to aftercare organizations in 30 states, including Canada, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, helping almost 3,000 horses. After the Finish Line gives hope and second chances to these deserving Off Track Thoroughbreds that have no other means of support. If you are interested in applying for a grant, please email dawn@ afterthefinishline.org to request our grant guidelines. After the Finish Line (ATFL) is a 501 (c)(3) funding non-profit dedicated to the welfare of Thoroughbred horses. We provide Monthly Emergency Grants to aftercare organizations throughout the United States to assist Thoroughbreds from the racing and breeding industries. This includes Thoroughbred foals, Thoroughbreds in training but never raced, Off Track Thoroughbreds, and Thoroughbred stallions and broodmares from breeding industry. Aftercare organizations can apply for grants to help with the following expenses: surgery, veterinarian, medication, supplements, farrier, dental, hay, feed, boarding, transportation or saving horses at auction. The talent of these horses extends far beyond the race track. Our grants help the Thoroughbreds retire to loving homes and gives them the opportunity to transition into a second careers as a hunter, jumper, dressage, eventing, western, trail, companion or therapy horse. After the Finish Line hosts fundraisers and we receive donations, grants

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and in-kind items for silent and live auctions. With the money raised, we award grants to qualified aftercare organizations. ATFL funds up to 6 organizations each month to assist with the needs of their horses. We thank our supporters for their donations and their trust. efforts.

FUNDRAISERS Raising money to assist Thoroughbreds that can no longer race or breed is both fun and challenging. After the Finish Line plans fundraisers throughout the year that also creates awareness for our cause. We welcome new and long-time donors to attend our events. If you cannot attend, please consider making a donation to help the horses.

HALTER AUCTIONS

Racing fans will have the opportunity to bid on many halters in 2017. Some of the upcoming halter auctions will include halters from Lookin at Lucky, Love the Chase, Better Than Honour, Texas Red, Two Step Salsa, Super Saver, Wild Dude, Havre de Grace, Lucky Pulpit, Littlemissemma, Kitten’s Joy, and many more! These are sought after collectibles for sports memorabilia collectors and racing fans. Please contact us at dawn@ afterthefinishline.org if there is a specific halter you are looking for.

Credit

After the Finish Line will continue to host halter auctions through our eBay store, stores.ebay.com/ AftertheFinishLine. You will never miss an auction if you click on the “Follow” button on our store site. You can also contact us to purchase a halter. We will host halter auctions prior to the Kentucky Derby to celebrate the Triple Crown races as well as prior to the Breeders’ Cup. We will also host halter auctions during the summer. Please check our website and follow us on social media for more information. All proceeds raised will benefit the Off Track Thoroughbreds. Pictured Guns and Knives


Pictured Smart Search

in November. The trainers and owners of many of your favorite racehorses that raced or were entered to race in the Breeders’ Cup donate a one of a kind hat to help After the Finish Line raise funds for the Off Track Thoroughbreds. Each hat bears the name of their horse and are only given to the trainers and owners at this World Championship event. They are not for sale to the public. We will host this eBay auction one week after Breeders’ Cup. We will be adding more fundraisers and announcing fundraiser details in the weeks to come. Also, please contact us if you are planning an event and would like to partner with a charity.

Pictured Silver Bouquet

Follow us on social media on Twitter @AfterFinishLine, on Facebook, After the Finish Line, and on Instagram, afterthefinishline. Contact us at dawn@afterthefinishline.org for additional information or to make a donation. Dawn Mellen, Founder/President After the Finish Line 10153 Riverside Drive Toluca Lake, CA 91602 www.afterthefinishline.org dawn@afterthefinishline.org

Breeders’ Cup Hat photos by Dawn Mellen

After the Finish Line will host our 6th annual Pacific Classic fundraiser at the Del Mar Race Track to celebrate the summer’s million dollar race. Our charity tables will be located by the famous Peb Bellocq mural in the Clubhouse lobby of the track. We sell autographed racing memorabilia, and items donated by artists, jockeys, race tracks, breeding farms, equestrian businesses and more! We will also host our 2nd Charity Auction of Breeders’ Cup Hats Halter photos by Allison Huntley

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Blue Viking looks up from grazing with the herd at Our Mims Retirement Haven. Photo by Heather Moreton

Happy to be of Service By Jeanne Mirabito and Cheryl Bellucci

Our Mims Retirement Haven, for the most part, is a quiet, unassuming place. But within its territorial confines moves the hearts of three women who set out over ten years ago to change a little known aspect of the Thoroughbred industry: While some retired broodmares are given proper pasture and care, many times those mares who live beyond their ability to bear live foals simply “disappear” without announcement. These women set out to change that; little by little they are saving aged mares. The Haven is a charity Thoroughbred Sanctuary created, managed, and worked mostly by women for the sake and well-being of the elder female Thoroughbred. Mares to the general public, but called the “Ladies” by all who know the herd that dots the pastures just outside the small town of Paris, Kentucky. Jeanne Mirabito, President of Our Mims Retirement Haven, explains the reason the Haven exists. “Horses have no say in their life. They work all their lives, and when they can no longer support themselves, they are often cast aside. We want to provide a safety net.”

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Some of the Thoroughbred mares Mirabito speaks about have earned vast amounts of money either on the racetrack or through their foals. Others just spent their lives trying. A mare’s foal producing days can end ten years before their lives might naturally end. Yet, they are not pets, most haven’t been ridden in years, and some can be expensive to keep. With no “401(k) plans,” even if they earned hundreds of thousands of dollars during their careers, their lives hang in the balance. Their only hope is

that some human loves them enough to allow them enough food to eat, proper shelter from the weather, and medical help if necessary. Because of her involvement in the latter years of the life of Our Mims, Mirabito recognized the need for a sanctuary for the retired Thoroughbred broodmare. The idea for the Haven was based on simple horse sense: Aging mares would come to the Haven; be pampered, cherished, and loved until they took their final breath.

Dogwood Patty surveys the view outside her stall in the barn at Our Mims Retirement Haven. Photo by Heather Moreton


The Haven’s mural-painted barn. Photo by Heather Moreton

Then they would be buried with honor. Famous or not, Mirabito would see to it that each mare was loved and respected, no matter what that mare did or did not accomplish in her life. Along the way, Mirabito met Cheryl Bellucci, a racing fan from Ohio who, along with her husband, had adopted two off-the-track Thoroughbreds from a rescue. John Bellucci had seen Our Mims race in person at Belmont, and he sought out Mirabito at a fundraiser. The Belluccis became frequent visitors to the Mirabito farm. At one visit, Jeanne revealed to Cheryl her dream of opening up a broodmare sanctuary. When Mims died in 2003 at the age of 29, Mirabito decided to go ahead with her dream. Mirabito and Bellucci publicly declared Mirabito’s farm a sanctuary and named it Our Mims Retirement Haven. The first official resident was the younger sister to Our Mims: Sugar and Spice. Working without a charity designation for a couple of years, the Haven became an official 501(c)3 nonprofit on March 8, 2007… the day that would have been Our Mims’ 33rd birthday. Laura Fallis, another racing fan and Thoroughbred owner from Alabama, joined the Haven shortly thereafter. She had attended the memorial service for Our Mims at Calumet and was a staunch supporter of the Haven’s efforts. The three women make up the board of Our Mims Retirement Haven. When proposing new projects or contemplating just about anything, they ask each other: “How will this help the horses?” If the project will not promote the physical or emotional well-being of the existing herd, the project is quickly scrapped, postponed, or revamped to meet the needs of the Ladies.

For a herd of elder horses, the veterinary bills at the Haven are remarkably low. Through excellent nutrition, the Ladies at the Haven thrive. True diligence insists that small health issues do not become large concerns, and the mares often live into their thirties with dapples in their coats and a shine in their eyes. The Ladies are also afforded regular dental and farrier care from professionals who quickly alert Mirabito to any possibly problems. There are no heroics. There are no expensive surgeries and very few hospital stays. “We don’t keep them alive,” Mirabito explains. “We give them what they need to live. Our Ladies thrive until they are ready to leave. They make their decisions themselves.” She adds, “To put them through painful surgeries and distress at an old age just to keep them with us a few months longer would not be fulfilling our mission: to let them go with dignity.” At first, all three women volunteered their time. In late 2015, the board decided it was time to pay Mirabito a small salary and hire another person to help with the day-to-day care of the horses. Ann Cheek came to work in mid-2016 as the assistant barn manager. “When you have a payroll,” Bellucci explains, “you need to have donations coming in regularly.” She is the Haven’s Director of Fund Raising and Promotion. The Haven exists on donations, the sale of donated items (including the halters from famous Thoroughbreds), and grants. Maintenance on the farm is always an issue. “We are dealing with an inadequate driveway at the moment,” Bellucci laments. “The gravel driveway that washes out during a rainstorm needs to be paved.” Although a bit of blacktop may not seem to answer the “How will this help the horses?” question to the positive, a proper road will allow school and tour buses

easy access, permit deliveries without hassle, and make it better for all visitors to come see the Ladies and learn about their background. “It’s hard to showcase our Ladies and educate if the people can’t get to the farm,” Bellucci adds. The Haven is on the cusp of a fundraising project to begin and complete the project. At the present time, the Ladies of Our Mims Retirement Haven spend their days grazing in peace, pampered in their stalls. They greet many visitors with a spark in their eyes and enjoy carrots on a regular basis. They seem aware of all the hard work it takes to help them. They relish in each good day they have left. In return, they remind their human caretakers that each day is a gift… one to be cherished and never wasted.

A bright and beautiful day at the Haven. Photo by Ann Cheek

The herd silhouetted on the hill, enjoying the pasture grass. Photo by Rhonda Helton VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2 | 2017

PONIES 24-7

37


You’ll be amazed at what they can do! We expect great things from our horses. Let’s make sure that they can expect a happy and dignified retirement when their racing days are over.

THOROUGHBRED RETIREMENT

SOCIETY

416-675-3993 ext. 3440 www.longrunretirement.com info@longrunretirement.com LongRunTB


Photo by Michael Burns

TRACK TALKS March/April, 2017

Keeping An Eye On The Woodbine & Mohawk Racing Scene! WOODBINE Thoroughbred NOTES:

Welcome back… A 133-day Thoroughbred meeting is set to begin April 15th, a meet that includes a 98race stakes schedule highlighted by the $1 Million Queen’s Plate, North America’s oldest continuously run stakes race, on July 2nd. Plate Day has been enhanced this racing season with the inclusion of four graded turf events, including the Grade II Highlander Stakes, a recent addition to the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ (WAYI) program for this year. The winner of the Highlander will receive automatic entry to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, at Del Mar Racetrack in early November. Also added to the Queen’s Plate Day card, are the Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes, the Grade III Singspiel Stakes, and the Grade II King Edward Stakes. With all the festivities surrounding the Queen’s Plate itself and now the addition of some great stakes racing over the world renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course, this years Queen’s Plate Day, has become a must see for all racing fans! Other highlights of this years stakes schedule include the Grade I Ricoh Woodbine Mile, also a Breeders’ Cup (WAYI) on Saturday, September 16th, and on the following day, September 17th, two more WAYI stakes events on the E. P. Taylor Turf Course, first the Grade I Natalma Stakes for juvenile fillies, and then the Grade II Summer Stakes for two-year-olds. October 15th will see the always-popular Grade I Pattison Canadian International at 1 ½-miles on the turf on the ‘sked’, and the headline event on a day that also includes the Grade I E. P. Taylor Stakes, the Grade II Nearctic Stakes and finally the Grade III Ontario Derby. If you like ‘stakes’, then you could say that

Woodbine has plenty of them on the menu this upcoming Thoroughbred racing season! On the racing side, last years leading Woodbine jockey was Eurico Rosa Da Silva, whose 202 wins and earnings of just over $10 Million had him far ahead of his closest competitor Luis Contreras, who tallied 140 victories and purse earnings of just over $7.2 Million. Woodbine bettors should keep a close eye though on Rafael Hernandez whose 99 wins were good enough for fourth in the Rider’s Standings, but the talented jockey was a relative latecomer to the circuit, and only time will tell what type of numbers he is capable of achieving over the long term! For the record though, his 99 victories from 511 mounts was good enough for a win percentage of close to 20%. Mind you, Eurico finished off 2016 posting a strong number of 25%, which should set up an interesting battle for Woodbine’s ‘Jockey Supremacy’ and make for some interesting Thoroughbred racing this coming season!

For The Harness Set… Building off a successful 2016 Mohawk Standardbred meet that featured 144 race dates, and had an ‘all-sources’ wagering handle of $215,022,527, an 18.5% increase over the 2015 total, one of the highlights of the Mohawk meet continues to be Pepsi North America Cup night. This year the race will be run on Saturday June 17th, and for the first time, Woodbine Entertainment Group will be borrowing a page from their recent success with the Queen’s Plate, and charge an admission fee at Mohawk that evening. Besides watching North America’s top three-year-old pacers compete for the $1 Million purse, race fans will also have the opportunity to witness some great music acts throughout the evening, with a soon to be announced major headliner gracing the stage after the night’s last race.

The emphasis at Mohawk, like Woodbine this year, is promoting the guest experience, and besides Pepsi North America Cup night, the track will be featuring several special entertainment evenings including a Fireworks and Family Fun Night on May 20th, and hosting several keynote stakes events, including the Metro Pace on Saturday, September 23rd.

BETTING MOHAWK HARNESS? Mohawk Bridle & Bits Winning Post Positions, A Good Thing To Know! (April 7th to November 7th, 2016) (Winning Percentage) Pacers: #6- 17.3% Trotters: #5-15.9% #5- 15.5% #6- 15.4% #4- 12.1% #2- 13.5% #2-11.6% #4- 12.4%

It’s All About The Trip! Horses sitting on the lead at the ½ won 35.7% of all races at Mohawk during the 2016 racing season, while those on the lead at the ¾ pole won 42.2% of all races. (Source- Standardbred Canada)

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2 | 2017

PONIES 24-7

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$50,000 FINAL SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 2017

$800 TOTAL FEE: $500 ENTRY FEE + $300 BANKROLL Or win a seat from a Meadowlands Qualifier:

saturday, MARCH 18 - $100 WHHC QUALIFIER saturday, APRIL 1 - $50 WHHC QUALIFIER See site for details.

$20,000

MEADOWLANDS QUALIFIER SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2017 TOP 3 FINISHERS WIN A SEAT TO THE 2018 NHC IN LAS VEGAS! Walk-ups welcome 12 noon - 2 p.m. See site for details.

live racing fri + sat first post 7:15 p.m. playmeadowlands.com

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