Elimination of slots worries horse breeder-owner
October 10, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
Mattie Terror Girl, who won her first race Aug.9, 2012 at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, ON, seen here after the race with (from left) Al Saul, Trainer Benjamin Wallace and Driver Sylvain Filion. (Photo: Clive Cohen/New Image Media)
TORONTO – Al Saul is a breeder and standardbred horse owner who has achieved success over his four decades in the sport. His enjoyment and participation around horses and racetracks is being drastically changed for him and others in the industry, he says, due to the Ontario government’s plan to eliminate slot machines from racetracks by next spring.
Saul is greatly worried about the future of Ontario horse racing noting the provincial government plans to eliminate race track slot machines established in 1996, by late March 2013. Gross slot revenue accounts for about 20 per cent, currently shared between track operators and those involved with running horses at 17 provincial tracks.
This has resulted in attracting more breeders, better trainers and jockeys and race purse monies.
“I thank G-d I don’t do horse racing for a living or else I couldn’t feed my family,” stated Saul. “I also don’t know how breeders more involved in our sport will be able to survive with substantial decreased amounts coming from race purses, breeding farms and yearling auction sales.”
He added that many thousands of people will be out of work with smaller race tracks probably shutting down.
“I’ll have to go with the flow of many Ontario breeders and send my horses to the US and watch their races on my iPad. Perhaps there may not even be a Breeders Crown Race in Ontario during 2013.”
For more information on this controversy, go to Racing Future (www.racingfuture.com).
The 59-year-old, born-and-raised Torontonian played basketball and football as a youngster.
“Our family observed all the major Jewish holidays including high holidays and I had my bar mitzvah at Beth Tzedec Congregation,” he said.
Saul got involved with horse racing at 15 when he and a friend went to the former Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto.
“We saw the races and I met a trainer who allowed me into the backstretch area. I enjoyed the whole package and presentation and knew I wanted to be involved in that horse racing environment.”
He preferred standardbreds “because they are bred to compete year round in all kinds of weather,” and pacers to trotters “because they won’t go off stride during races. Harness races occur at nights and weekends, which allows me to attend to my business activities and then come to the racetrack.”
At 18 Saul purchased three yearlings with his first horse Tough Hombre earning about $750,000 during his career.
“Tough Hombre lived up to his name and had a heart of gold,” said Saul.
His favourite, and most successful, horse has been Armbro Amoretto purchased in autumn 2001 at the Kentucky Standardbred Yearling Sale (KSYS) in Lexington for about $13,000. As a two-year-old she won the 2002 Breeders Crown – a high-profile championship race for North American two- and three-year-old fillies, mares, colts and geldings – at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. The horse won more than $427,000 in 2002 and earned the O’Brien Award, which annually honours Canada’s best harness race performers.
“She was a great filly who was clutch and gutsy during stretch drives,” Saul stated.
In 2003 Armbro Amoretto won 11 of 19 races, finished second (by a nose in the Breeders Crown) or third in 17 races, earning $800,142.
Those results earned Saul a Nova Award given annually to champion horses from racing secretaries of the 38-member Harness Track of America.
“She only competed one more year and then was retired. I sold her first foal for about $500,000.”
He is a strong supporter of Harness Horse Youth Foundation (HHYF), a 36-year-old non-profit organization providing preteen North American kids with information and experiences about harness horses.
“I collect from $1,000 to $3,000 voluntary monies from customers annually at my aquarium stores in the GTA and send it to HHYF to help youngsters understand different aspects of the harness horse racing industry.”
Saul was busy at the KSYS in Lexington recently, where he bought Always A Virgin, a yearling sold from the mare Neverhaveneverwill.
“The Somebeachsomewhere colt from Neverhaveneverwill sold Tuesday (Oct.2) for $67,000,” he said, acknowledging the efforts of his trainers Jeff Gillies, Anthony Montini and Ben Wallace “who all continue doing a great job with my horses day and night.”
Big Al’s Stables in Woodbridge has four racehorses, six weanlings, seven broodmares and eight yearlings.
“My best horse is Mattie Terror Girl (who won her first race Aug. 9 at Mohawk), a two year old prepping for the Breeders Crown at Woodbine this month (on Oct.27).”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.twitter.com/JackJaybee