Ontario Racing (OR) has announced that John Hayes is stepping down as its Independent Chair after four years leading the organization.
Hayes was the first person to assume the position of OR’s Independent Chair, entering the role in March of 2018.
During Hayes’ tenure, OR strengthened the relationship between government partners and the horse racing industry through the establishment of the Long-Term Funding Agreement, showed a strong dedication to the industry’s strategic goals and navigated difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Horse racing is a unique partnership between all participants including owners, breeders, horsepeople and racetracks,” said Hayes. “If one of the cogs is experiencing an issue, the other gears will not work as well. Building strong relationships with these partners and trusting those relationships allowed us to achieve our goals and overcome challenges in these past four years.”
The Long-Term Funding Agreement has provided stability and a roadmap to a sustainable horse racing industry. Under Hayes, Ontario Racing has worked to ensure all parties involved are united in achieving this goal.
Katherine Curry was the first Executive Director of Ontario Racing and worked closely with Hayes during her time in the role, when the Long-Term Funding Agreement was instituted.
“It has been an immense pleasure to work with John,” said Curry, current Ontario Racing Board Member and Vice President of Legal & Compliance at Woodbine Entertainment. “The Long-Term Funding Agreement represents an unprecedented level of collaboration between the horse racing industry and its government partners, and John helped Ontario Racing lay the groundwork for its current and future success.”
The COVID-19 pandemic posed tremendous challenges to the horse racing industry and OR, through assistance from its government partners and extraordinary effort from the industry, came together to support horsepeople and equine athletes alike. Hayes’ leadership was instrumental in the solutions that OR developed and executed.
“John is definitely a consensus builder. He can be very influential because, in his own quiet and dignified way, he makes his point without pressure to the person he is speaking to,” said Sue Leslie, Ontario Racing Board Member and President of the Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association of Ontario. “John has a lot of class and he has led with dignity. When you have class and dignity at the top, it sets the tone and everyone follows. Ontario Racing will miss him and his leadership.”
While the Long-Term Funding Agreement and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic were the largest items on OR’s agenda the last four years, Hayes’ leadership also touched the work the organization has done with breeding programs, equine welfare and aftercare. The success of these efforts is a testament to his dedication to helping all facets of the horse racing industry.
“John was always looking for the betterment of each sector of the industry, whether that be Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred or Standardbred, and the groups within those sectors,” said Walter Parkinson, Ontario Racing Board Member and President of the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association. “His dedication, knowledge and passion for Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry is unquestionable. The industry as a whole benefited greatly from his time at Ontario Racing.”
A lifelong fan of the sport, Hayes will continue to stay involved in the industry as an owner. He is looking forward to seeing OR’s next Independent Chair lead the organization and the horse racing industry writ large as it continues to build a healthy and thriving industry in the province of Ontario.
“I look forward to remaining involved in the horse racing industry in Ontario,” said Hayes. “Thanks to our work the past four years, we are on a strong path and I look forward to seeing the future successes of the industry.”
OR is currently seeking applications for its next Independent Chair.