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Racing Future President hails Premier Wynne's announcement of new agreements to safeguard future of Fort Erie, Flamboro Downs and Georgian Downs

27 March 2013

TORONTO, Ontario -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- Premier Kathleen Wynne's announcement today that transition funding agreements have been completed with Fort Erie and two other racetracks - Flamboro Downs and Georgian Downs - is another very important step forward in implementing the premier's commitment to restore viability and vitality to the Ontario horse racing and breeding industry, says Dennis Mills, president and CEO of Racing Future Inc.

Together with the earlier March 8 announcement of completed transition funding agreements with the Woodbine, Mohawk, Clinton, Hanover, London and Grand River tracks, this brings to nine the number of racetracks that have been given a new lease on life by the Wynne government after being brought to the brink of collapse by the previous McGuinty government's abrupt announcement that it was cancelling the successful Slots at Racetracks partnership with the industry, Mills noted..

"After just a month in office, Premier Wynne is showing that she really understands both the horse racing industry and the gaming industry, and how the right interplay between the two can benefit the public interest and the economy in our province," Mills said. In the earlier March 8 announcement, the premier made the key undertaking that horse racing will be integrated into the provincial gaming strategy, which will make new and different revenue opportunities available to the industry.

Mills particularly praised the reaching of a transition agreement that ensures the continued operation of the Fort Erie racetrack, saying that "Fort Erie is rural, it's close to the U.S. border, it's important to the tourism industry, it's the only thoroughbred track in the province other than Woodbine, and it's a real gem of a showcase track with a proud and storied industry."

Built in 1896, Fort Erie held its first thoroughbred race on June 16 1897. With just over 30 racing dates in its early days, the track went on to become the Town of Fort Erie's largest employer. Managed by the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, a non-profit entity that is part of the Town's Economic Development Corporation, the track annually contributes some $25 million in direct economic impact and as much as $180 million indirectly.

The great Canadian thoroughbred breeder and horseman, E. P. Taylor was instrumental in putting Fort Erie Race Track on the map. Taylor purchased the track in 1952 and seven years later Fort Erie hosted the Prince of Wales Stakes, which is the prestigious second leg of Canada's Triple Crown of Racing that also includes The Queen's Plate and the Breeder's Stakes.

This year is a particularly fitting time for the Premier Wynne's government to have affirmed renewed commitment to the future of Fort Erie Racetrack, because it marks 50 years since Canada's own Northern Dancer ran his first race as a two-year-old at Fort Erie on August 2, 1963 in an eight- horse field, with an equally illustrious jockey, Canada's Ron Turcotte . Northern Dancer went on to become the first Canadian horse to win the Kentucky Derby and subsequently was the greatest thoroughbred stallion of the 20th Century. At least 60% of all thoroughbreds in the world today have Northern Dancer blood in their pedigrees. He is one of Canada's greatest exports and he began his career at Fort Erie Racetrack.

"This is a far better day today than we at Fort Erie have had in a long time," said Jim Thibert , CEO of Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, the non-profit group which manages the track. "These negotiations with the Province, in light of the modernization strategy for Ontario, confirm Fort Erie is seen as a critical component for the future of horseracing in Ontario."

Thibert said that "Even though it has taken us through the first quarter to get here, my senior management team are ready to launch a 2013/4 season and you will see accelerated activity at the track as usual for a spring start-up. We are looking toward new sponsorships and an exciting venue for our race fans."

Sue Leslie , President of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that "The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association appreciate the effort and team work that took place between all stakeholders, MPP Kim Craitor, the Horse Racing Transition Panel and of course Premier Wynne. As this is only a one year agreement, there is still much work to be done to secure a permanent arrangement through the integration of horseracing into the Provincial gaming strategy. We look forward to engaging the Province further to make that happen."

The two other racetracks whose future was safeguarded in today's announcement are also important components of the industry in Ontario.

Founded in 1975 by Charles Juravinksi, Flamboro Downs is Canada's fastest ½- mile harness horse racing track. Recognized as a Builder of horse racing in Ontario, Juravinksi was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2012.

Flamboro is home to the Confederation Cup, the Canadian half-mile championship. Since its founding, the track has seen some of the greatest Standardbred horses win the Cup including the famed stallion Cam Fella nicknamed "the pacing machine," and Somebeachsomewhere who was the first 3 year old harness horse to ever race in under 1:50 on a half-mile track.

Georgian Downs was originally named Barrie Raceway and was founded in 1973 by former Conservative MP (Dufferin Simcoe 1925-1963), William Earl Rowe . Rowe was also Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1963-1968.

A breeder and owner of champion harness horses, Rowe was recognized for his contributions to the industry when he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976. A signature stakes race, the Honourable Earl Rowe Trot, is named in his honour and takes place annually at the Downs.

About Racing Future:
Racing Future's principle purpose is motivate and inspire a new generation of fans to get involved in and support the horse racing industry.

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