Managing Horse Shortages Pragmatically

Published: January 29, 2022 10:49 am EST

Each day like many of you our trainers receive texts from tracks in Ontario (and in the U.S.) proclaiming their entry boxes are short, and that they are in search of horses to fill their upcoming cards. This has become a daily occurrence and it's become a real problem across the board in racing.

Anthony MacDonald in Trot Blogs

Whether this is a biproduct of COVID-19 or foreshadowing of the horse racing industry to come, it's making it difficult to do business in general these days. Race offices are left patching fields together, carrying over classes and weakening the owners' and trainers' confidence in buying horses.

I looked on Facebook recently and a prominent trainer was asking for people to enter their pacing mares in the Mohawk mares open because they cant seem to fill it consistently. Engaging our industry in such a manner is smart, as we can't afford to lose our open mares to other tracks, but I'd be surprised if even Mark Zuckerberg can help fill the mares open at Mohawk at the moment.

I was speaking to a friend and the situation and commented that Ontario should compile a list of all horses eligible to, and currently racing in this jurisdiction and use that information to build a real time condition sheet for each of our tracks.

He looked at me and said; "don't we already have one"? Doesn't almost everybody use Standardbred Canada's online entry system? I looked at him dumbfounded, because he was right, and because it was such a simple, and yet vitally important observation. Couldn't we ask all horsemen to keep the list as accurate and current as possible and build our condition sheets from that database?

Keep in mind, this information is much more important than just for forming condition sheets; it would allow our race secretaries the ability to see deficiencies in this jurisdiction's horse population and allow them to make a list of what types of horses they would need to further fill classes in Ontario.

We have a number of trainers and owners who would gladly pursue these types of horses if they knew they would race every week. I'm one of them and I have little confidence and no information to support purchasing horses for Ontario currently. has bought plenty of horses this year but only because we race everywhere, and if we have to juggle them we can and will. If we knew what to look for to fill classes here at home we would buy them in an instant, and we aren't alone.

Full fields are vitally important for our product and it's in our racetracks' best interest to provide trainers the information they need to fill them, and our race secretaries the ability to card classes that will be filled.

An open mare may be a bit tough to purchase in short order, but with an idea of what we need to consistently fill all classes people would certainly find the horses to fill them.

I'm not sure if there are logistical hurdles that would make this more difficult than it seems, but regardless of the barriers we need to start being more pragmatic about the way we utilize what horses we have, and how we buy the ones for our jurisdictions. Full fields can't be a goal, it has to be a reality moving forward.

Working together we can improve our industry, attract more owners, and put out a product that challenges our current, and future gamblers.

The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.


I agree with most of what Anthony has to say with a few exceptions. Firstly, we already have an inventory of horses. They’re entered every week on-line or not. It is the direct responsibility of race secretaries in the province to know the horse population. There’s no reason for 24 conditions written for a card that will field 10-11 races. It’s simply not logical.

In addition to these large condition sheets we have a blending of multiple industry segments which makes classification difficult. We all know more races are won and lost at the entry box than anywhere else. It is my position that claiming races should be just that. Non winners lifetime should be just that. Conditioned horses should be just that. As we have seen over time combining these different types of classes has brought us to where we are now. I know it can be difficult to juggle classes, especially with the influx of young horses every spring. This has been the case since the dawn of stake season and it shouldn’t lead to entire horse populations that carry the industry all winter to be cast aside at the beginning of stake season.

Finally, the biggest issue over seen is the numerous multiple uncoupled entries. The direct feedback I have received from clients and fans alike is that this is a variable they are unhappy with. One prominent trainer noted they “only win 13% of their starts”. When you consider they tend to race 2 per race that number is biased as they are actually winning at a higher percentage than that. There is a decided advantage to having an entry. Two horses working together can influence the outcome and being uncoupled, if one causes a violation then there is no repercussions to the other half. With respect to players, there’s always going to be a question if the favoured horse loses to its longer odds stablemate. This isn’t to suggest anything untoward is happening, just that it presents challenges that have clearly had a negative impact on our horse population.

Finally, I personally love what’s being done with the series’. It would be preferable that they were advertising them in advance so that we could pursue new blood either by temporary imports or purchases. If there was time to accrue some more entries, we wouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Let’s face it, NW$1,000/st in 21-22 isn’t a class that should be racing at Mohawk on a Saturday night even if they are wonderful animals. Good luck and good racing. Dean.

Yonkers Raceway has one of the best purse structures around, In addition they race 5 nights a week which gives owners, trainers, and drivers ample opportunity to earn money. The reason the competition is weaker is because a lot of trainers are reluctant to race their horse on 1/2 mile tracks which is foolish, the idea is to make money.

I personally feel there is a shortage of horses due to many horses who are no longer race competitive being sold as buggy horses or being retired. When you have a horse who can't win in a $7000 claimer anymore, what options do you have? Too many horses of this caliber are no longer racing. If the racing secretaries brought back some $5000 claiming races, these horses could continue to earn a few bucks and continue racing. I know the product weakens but I still think its better this way then having 6 horse fields on a regular basis. As a gambler, I'd rather bet on a 9 horse field of $5000 claimers then a 5 horse field of quality horses.

I owned/trained a horse for 30 yrs, then McGinty/Duncan/Godfrey threw a wrench into it. My jurisdiction is Kawartha Downs, my question is why hasn't KD recovered like all the other tracks with more than 18-20 race dates a year? More importantly, where's the $6,000 - $10,000 purses like all the other tracks? No equal purse money, I'm out!

Well I'm just a fan but I was kind of wondering about something and you addressed it. As a fan and bettor I follow certain horses at different tracks. One of my favorite, So Much More, comes to mind. Sure she's competitive in the invitational but it makes you wonder after a while how her owner feels about having to race her to get 2nd when she could crush every mare in a field a class below this and probably be making more money. Then you see Lit De Rose, who used to race against her and was similar, but I would say not quite as good a horse as her, raking in the bucks at Yonkers in a F/M Open - which pays way more against lesser competition then So Much More is racing. Hardly seems fair and has to be annoying that you'd probably have twice as much money in the bank for the month, for working less hard.

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