Racing Future is determined to inspire a new generation of fans to enjoy the sport of horse racing.

Rachel's Campaign Story: Politics and Horse Racing . . .I Got Goose Bumps!

The Liberal Leadership Convention for me could be summarized using two words “Goose Bumps”. I could use other words such as unity, excitement, breath taking and inspiring. As I sit and reflect on what may have been one of the greatest experiences of my life I feel truly lucky and extremely fortunate to have been a part of a great RacingFuture team. The messaging from the team was simple “Horses and Farmers First, Casino’s Second”, as we embarked on our mission Friday morning I could feel the excitement building and the energy growing. While sitting at the Golden Griddle enjoying French Toast I had the opportunity to speak one on one with Kathleen Wynne whom I was supporting and have been inspired by since I first met her at Mowat Block on the 13th Floor so many years ago. It was at that very opportunity with very few around me I was able to reach out to Kathleen and make my plea for the breeders and horsepeople in the Province of Ontario. I thanked her for the great strides forward with ensuring that some of Ontario’s tracks had signed contracts and insisted that this was a great start but that our breeders and horses needed so much more. It was at that moment Kathleen looked at me and said we definitely need to work on a sustainability plan.  This would be for me the first of many great moments in a two day span.

Right after breakfast the RacingFuture team joined forces with the many horsepeople standing outside the former Maple Leaf Garden braving the cold and sharing our message. It was there I started feel a real sense of unity for the industry, thoroughbred, standardbred, and quarter horse supporters were out there carrying signs and working together to educate delegates and leadership candidates. For me it was the first time I saw the industry really pull together since the previous April when the announcement was made. Playing off of that momentum Dennis Mills invited all of the participants to join us at “Hair of The Dog” on Church Street. It would also be the place that Kathleen Wynne was holding a campaign event. It was there that Minister McMeeken came and spoke to us about eight tracks having deals signed and more deals to come. It was also there that John Wilkinson came over to speak with all of us about the importance of Rural Ontario and horse racing. It was becoming a safe place for candid discussion and open opportunities.  Everything so far was unified and positive; it was exactly what the industry needed. Kathleen herself even came over to thank us all and to meet us.

Later that evening we returned to the former Maple Leaf Gardens to bid farewell to Dalton McGunity and to continue working as the RacingFurutre team. It was there that I ran into an MPP from the greater Toronto area that was willing to talk about “Horses and Farmers” but didn’t support casinos. We were more than willing to speak to this MPP about “Horses and Farmers” so it worked out well. I asked him what he knew already about Slots at Racetracks and he started to use terminology that horsepeople don’t enjoy like subsidy. I quickly enlighten the MPP and instructed him about the profitable partnership the racing community had with the Province and it had essentially just ended without warning. I explained the importance of maintaining our breeding sector for our racing industry because it has become the envy of the world with a viable Sires Stakes program and many other breeding incentives. I made mention of the fact that many prominent business investors from around the world were spending their money in Ontario because of the great strides forward our industry has taken as a result of the Slots At Race Tracks Program. You could tell he was considering all of the information he had just been provided and came back with a rebuttal such as ”Don’t guys like Frank Stronach get government subsidies because of the program?" I couldn’t have been more pleased with his response because it allowed me to again educate him as to how much someone like Frank Stronach contributes to the Ontario economy through jobs, investment and commitment to his community. We left the conversation on a high note and the very next day I was approached by the very same MPP who had a whole new language to use when referring to racing. He had taken in all of the information and was more than willing to learn more. He even commented that he was looking forward to coming out to see the races at Woodbine. It was a magical moment.

The Leadership Candidates spoke on Saturday morning trying so hard to woe and impress the many delegates to vote for them in their leadership bid.  As I stood on the convention floor beside Kathleen Wynne’s mother and father, I felt this feeling of euphoria. I stood watching the stage with adoring eyes and listening to a woman who has inspired me politically to be the best I can be, in the best Province, in the best country in the world. When Kathleen came off the stage from her most amazing speech, I was one of the first people she saw. The words I uttered to her were “You go girl, you get the job done”. It was truly an amazing moment. As I sat in the stands with my RacingFuture partner Cindy listening to the other candidate speeches and even the Honourable David Peterson I felt more inspired than ever before. After Mr. Peterson spoke he left the stage and made his way through the stands. He walked right up to me and commented on my Liberal red outfit. It was at that moment I was able to hand Mr. Peterson a button for “Horses and Farmers First”, I garnered his support, which he didn’t hesitate to provide.  Saturday morning was a busy one and most of the morning was spent talking to delegates supporting Charles Sousa and Gerard Kennedy. If Kathleen was going to win we needed their votes and all of their support. We had somehow managed to work our way into the Kennedy camp where we enjoyed the best Samosa’s I have ever had. It was clear after the second ballot that this work was more important than ever. We needed Gerard and Charles to cross the floor to support Kathleen. Gerard Kennedy had a closed door meeting with his delegates; he asked them all if it would be ok with them if he endorsed Kathleen Wynne. Happily he was met with an overwhelming response of yes!! It was such a game changer and I was there. Crossing the floor with our new found friends and allies was an electrifying experience. By the end of the weekend we had members of the Liberals, NDP and PC’s and general public supporting “Horses and Farmers First, Casino’s second.” For someone like me who has a passion for horse racing and a love of politics, this was truly an opportunity of a lifetime. Being able to work with someone like Dennis Mills and his team was a game changer for me. I will continue to spread the messaging from the weekend back to the industry and fight for what we all love to do.

Written by Rachel Kukulewich, Horse Breeding and Racing Enthusiast