Press Release – COVID-19

As a result of an emergency meeting called today March 19, 2020 at 3:30 pm by the OHHA directors.

Press Release

“It’s time to do the responsible thing. It’s time to temporarily shelve live horse racing in the province of Ontario”, declared Jim Whelan President of Ontario Harness Horse Association.

“The Covid-19 virus is a real and present danger to all Ontarians, including horsepeople in rural Ontario. No one is immune. Let’s do the right thing and shut things down until it is safe to resume.”

Many tracks around North America have ceased operations following the death of prominent horsepeople in New York State. John Brennan, Carmine Fusco and other members of the Fusco Family, well known industry participants, fell victim to the virus in the past two weeks. Currently, racing in Ontario is being carried out at Mohawk Park Woodbine in Milton, Ontario, Rideau Carleton Raceway in Ottawa Ontario and Western Fair Raceway in London, Ontario.

Whelan is also calling on the government for financial support. ”Many of our members are living hand to mouth. We need industry money immediately directed to maintain families, individuals, and the horses we love. We are hopeful that both the federal and provincial government will also work with us to encourage suppliers to extend goodwill and good faith to help us get through this global crisis. We are part of the agricultural community that will desperately need help”.

In accordance with Premier Ford declaring a state of emergency, OHHA feels strongly that health and safety has to be the province’s number one priority. Whelan also pointed to the need for assistance to anyone quarantined as a result of illness or suspect symptoms.

“For the past week, racing has continued in Ontario and while everyone acknowledges that available purse money pays the bills, the risk of putting people associated with up to 100 equine participants in a paddock on given night flies in the face of social distancing. As the voice of responsible participants, we are calling for responsible actions. Stop racing now until it is safe to resume.”

Newly appointed OHHA director Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of Ontario Public Service Employees Union agreed with Whelan.  “OPSEU has lead the way in calling for social distancing to flatten the curve of COVID-19. I call on officials to do the right thing and suspend horseracing until the danger has subsided.  And I call on the Finance Minister to redistribute allocated purse money to support industry participants.” The approximately $1.2 million per week allotted to purses plus any funds dedicated to racetracks to provide live racing needs to go to those in need during the suspension of racing.

OHHA is the voice of 2500 horsepeople in the province of Ontario.

For further info


Jim Whelan  519 770-5184


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