TORONTO, January 24, 2023 – One year ago, trainer Dale Desruisseaux traveled to Lexington, K.Y., to attend the 2022 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale. His goal was to venture into the breeding side of the horse racing business by purchasing an in-foal broodmare.
Desruisseaux, who trains a moderate sized stable based out of Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ont., didn’t consider breeding financially viable before Ontario Racing’s Mare Purchase Program (MPP) was developed.
“I wouldn’t have gotten involved in breeding without the program,” said Desruisseaux. “Especially with the American dollar being strong, buying down there gets pretty expensive, but with the money back from the program it allows you to dip your toe in a little bit.”
The MPP is a component of Ontario Racing’s Thoroughbred Improvement Program (TIP). When purchasing in-foal mares at recognised public auctions outside of the province, Ontario residents can apply for an incentive totaling half the purchase price, to a maximum of $25,000 per mare and $75,000 annually per person or partnership.
Desruisseaux left Keeneland last year having signed the slip for Innocent Love, a stakes winning mare by Grand Slam, in-foal to hot young stallion Audible.
He partnered with Tom Sedef, and was able to purchase Innocent Love for $20,000 after she failed to meet her reserve price of $24,000.
“She was carrying a foal by an in-demand sire, and was in our price range,” said Desruisseaux. “There were lots that were out of our price range that we would have liked to have, but she fit what we were looking to spend.”
Desruisseaux and Sedef sent Innocent Love to Centennial Farms Niagara, where Jen Power foaled and raised the filly before she was sent to Kentucky and prepped to enter the sales ring by Margaux Farm.
The goal of the MPP is to increase the quantity and quality of the mares in Ontario, and by nature their future offspring.
When Innocent Love’s foal entered the sales ring as HIP 475 at the 2023 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, the quality the TIP program is striving for was on display as she hammered for $120,000 to Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Steven Rocco.
“HIP 475, we think she is a star,” said Dean Reeves owner of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. “We focus on quality, and this is going to be a filly that we think can shine.”
HIP 475 stood out as an individual, and because she was Ontario Bred. Reeves has been familiar with the New York Bred program for several years, and recently learned more about the Ontario Bred program and the benefits it offers to owners.
In 2021 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, Reeves purchased an Ontario Bred colt by Mucho Macho Man. Reeves campaigned Mucho Macho Man as a racehorse, and his Bloodstock Manager Jimmy Gladwell was thoroughly impressed by the colt who would be christened Armstrong.
“We saw that horse at the sale, and Jimmy said, ‘That’s the best Mucho Macho Man I’ve seen in a long time, it’s one that we have to have’,” said Reeves. “Then he said, ‘By the way he’s an Ontario Bred, that’s a real advantage’, and that’s how we see it. We look at being an Ontario Bred as an advantage.”
Armstrong enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign this past year at Woodbine, making three starts and winning two, including the $150,000 Clarendon Stakes for Ontario Breds, and a maiden special weight valued at $126,000 thanks to Ontario Bred bonuses.
“Being able to run in that program is a real benefit,” said Reeves. “We found that it’s good to be able to start in a maiden special weight against mostly Ontario breds, instead of running against a million-dollar Tapit in your first race. It gives your horse a chance to develop by being in a program that we can make just as much or more money in as a Kentucky bred can.”
Reeves’ experience with the racing program in Ontario gave him the confidence to buy HIP 475 at a price indicative of her quality.
“We felt like if we paid a good amount, we will get that back being in the program, that’s how beneficial it is,” said Reeves. “We can go right back and do the same thing we did with Armstrong. It gives us a real opportunity to get that filly right back up there when she starts racing and going through the same process.”
The $120,000 generated by HIP 475, was reinvested back into Ontario by Desruisseaux who purchased two more mares, Dulce Arabe and Pangaea Proxima, at the January Keeneland Sale, both supported by the MPP, and Innocent Love already has a 2022 foal on the ground by Ontario Sire Point of Entry.
“The MPP is a great program,” said Desruisseaux. “It’s letting people who wouldn’t have got into breeding, dabble into it a little bit, and if they each produce a few more Ontario Breds, that’s good for the industry.”