Industry Notice – AGCO Expands Claiming Rules to Provide Further Protection of Racehorses and Industry

Horse Racing

To provide additional protection for racehorses and the racing industry during claiming races, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is expanding the invalidation of claims rules. In response to requests from the industry, the revisions allow a claim to be invalidated in certain circumstances following a claiming race. The Thoroughbred Rules of Racing changes take effect July 4, 2024, which also applies to Quarter horse. Standardbred changes are planned for 2025. 

Over the coming months, the AGCO will work with the industry to understand how these changes can be applied to Standardbred racing. More information about the Standardbred rules will follow at a later date.

Please see the updated Thoroughbred Rules of Racing below. Updated June 20, 2024

Effective Date: July 4, 2024 

Effective immediately, the AGCO has also updated several Rules of Racing for the 2024 spring racing season to ensure accuracy, clarity and added industry flexibility.

Please see the updated Thoroughbred Rules of Racing below.

Please see the updated Standardbred Rules of Racing below.

The new changes to the invalidation of claims rules add an Observation Period at the claimant’s request, which will take place approximately one hour after a claiming race. This is an opportunity for racehorses to be observed by an Official or Commission Veterinarian, and increases the likelihood that only sound, healthy horses will be entered into claiming races.

The changing of owners can pose potential risks to the health of racehorses. The Observation Period may include a physical examination, but it is not a pre-purchase exam. It is not intended to be a comprehensive examination. If during this observation, a horse is placed on the Veterinarian's List, is seen bleeding from the nostrils, requires euthanasia due to an injury, or dies, the claimant can request that a Race Official invalidate the claim.

The AGCO will permit flexibility in this process by allowing claimants to waive the Observation Period.

The new rules also add that if a claim is ruled invalid, the claimant is responsible for the reasonable costs for the horse's care, training or racing while it is in their possession. The horse also needs to be returned to the original owner in the same material condition (e.g. not gelded).

Before the rules take effect, each racetrack is expected to update its individual track rules to support the invalidation of claims rules expansion, explaining the claiming process, such as where the Observation Period will take place and clarifying that the original owner or their representative must remain at the racetrack during the Observation Period. The updated track rules must be approved by the AGCO before the revised claiming rules can go into effect.

Expanding the invalidation of claims rules is part of a continued effort to help ensure the highest standards of health, safety, and accountability across the horse racing industry in Ontario. It aligns with rules comparable jurisdictions already have in place.

As with all racetrack interactions, the AGCO expects all racing participants to act professionally and respectfully when dealing with other participants as well as all Racing Officials and Official and Commission Veterinarians during the new claiming process. Any disrespect of Officials will not be tolerated and could result in monetary penalties or suspension under TB 16.05.

The AGCO will continue to engage with racetracks and veterinarians to address any operational considerations ahead of implementation. 

For any specific questions about the rule expansions, please see the Race Day Contact List.

Invalidation of Claims

Thoroughbred Rules of Racing 

Updated June 20, 2024

Rule amended in Chapter 12: Claiming Races, of the Thoroughbred  Rules of Racing stating:

TB Chapter 2: Definitions

Observation Period means the time of observation, conducted by a Commission Veterinarian or Official Veterinarian, which may include a physical examination after a claiming race.


TB R.  12.32.01 The Stewards shall rule a claim invalid, if:

  1. At the option of the claimant, approved post-race testing procedures discloses that an improper medication or drug was found to be present in the sample of the claimed horse which is reported in the analysis report from the lab. Once the claim has been declared invalid by the Stewards the claimant must request within 72 hours that the horse be returned to the original owner;
  2. At the option of the claimant, if the horse has been found ineligible to the event from which it was claimed;
  3. The horse dies on the racetrack; or
  4. The horse suffers an injury which requires euthanasia while on the racetrack as determined by either a Commission Veterinarian or an Official Veterinarian.
  5. At the option of the claimant, if before the end of the Observation Period:  
    1. The Commission Veterinarian or Official Veterinarian places the horse on the Veterinarian's List;
    2. The Commission Veterinarian or Official Veterinarian observes the horse is bleeding from the nostrils;
    3. The Commission Veterinarian or Official Veterinarian determines the horse has suffered an injury which requires euthanasia; or
    4. The horse dies.

TB R.  12.33 Claimants may choose to have the horse observed by an Official Veterinarian or Commission Veterinarian. A claimant or their representative must confirm with the Stewards or such other Official as set out in the track rules by phone that a horse will be observed prior to the horse being transferred to the claimant. If the claimant chooses to waive the Observation Period, Rule 12.32.01(e) shall no longer apply.

TB R.  12.33.01 With respect to the Observation Period, the claimed horse claimant or their representative shall be taken proceed directly and without delay, to the designated observation area; failure to do so comply may result in the following:

  1. The Observation Period being waived, and or
  2. The claim not being invalidated, and/or
  3. Such other action, as determined by the Stewards.

TB R.  12.33.02 The observation shall take place as close to one hour after the race as practical.

TB R.  12.33.03 Except in the case of an emergency, no horse shall receive treatment before the end of the Observation Period and any such treatment shall be reported to the Stewards as soon as practical.

TB R.  12.33.04 The Association shall create a process for the Observation Period referred to in Rule 12.32.01(e), which must be outlined in an Association’s track rules.

TB R. 12.34 When the Stewards rule that a claim is invalid: and the horse is returned to the original owner:

  1. The amount of the claiming price shall be repaid to the claimant;
  2. Any purse monies earned subsequent to the date of the claim and before the date on which the claim is ruled invalid shall be the property of the claimant;
  3. The claimant shall be responsible for any reasonable costs incurred through the care, training or racing of the horse while it was in his or her possession; and
  4. The horse shall be returned to the original owner in the same material condition.

Further additions were made to existing rules in Chapter 12: Claiming Races, of the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing, (also applies to Quarter Horse) stating:

TB R. 12.13 Except when a horse is sent for observation pursuant to Rule 12.33, in which case physical custody remains with the original owner until the Observation Period has ended, transfer of possession of a claimed horse shall take place in the claiming barn or designated area immediately after the running of said race, unless the horse is required to be taken to either the retention test barn and/or TCO2 test barn for post-race testing. The successful claimant or their representative shall maintain physical custody of the claimed horse. Transfer of possession of each claimed horse will take place after sample tags have been signed by the previous trainer and/or their representative.

TB 12.18.01 Subject to Rule 12.16, title to a claimed horse shall vest in the successful claimant from the time the stall doors of the starting gate open in front of such horse at the time the Starter dispatches the horses in a valid start for the claiming race. The successful claimant shall take possession of the claimed horse according to the Rules whether said horse is sound or unsound, or injured during or after the race, unless the horse is invalidated in accordance with Rule 12.32.01 and any related track rules.


Spring 2024 Rule Updates

Thoroughbred Rules of Racing 

Rule updated in Chapter 12: Claiming Races, of the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing stating:

TB 12.08 If a horse is claimed, it shall not be sold or transferred to anyone in whole or in part, except in a claiming race, for a period of thirty (30) clear days from date of claim. It shall not, unless reclaimed, remain in the same stable or under control or management of its former owner or trainer for the same thirty (30) clear days. It shall not race outside Ontario, nor shall the foal registration papers be removed from an Association’s Race Secretary’s offices for the next ninety (90) clear days from the date of claim other than for the purpose of racing at any thoroughbred racetrack in Ontario Woodbine or Fort Erie, or until the end of the track’s meet where the horse was claimed, whichever of the two that occurs first. Exceptions may apply with permission of the Stewards, for a claimed horse to compete in stakes races in other jurisdictions during the ninety-day (90) day period.  Any person who violates this rule shall be subject to a suspension or monetary penalty of 10% of the claiming price or 100% of the purse for each race, whichever is greater and the horse may be suspended. A claimant shall be held in violation of this rule if he or she disposes of the horse in any manner other than by claiming and the horse races outside of the province of Ontario within 90 days of the horse being claimed. 

Rationale: This rule is being updated at stakeholders’ request to define and align the penalty structure with the Standardbred Rules of Racing and as a means of supporting Ontario’s racehorse supply. 

Standardbred Rules of Racing 

New rule added in Chapter 1: Mandate and Preliminary, of the Standardbred Rules of Racing stating:

SB 1.15 Any ruling of the Registrar, the Judges or other Racing Officials may be published as soon as the person or persons affected by such ruling have been notified either directly or by mail. 

Rationale: This rule is being updated to align the Standardbred Rules of Racing with the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing. The previous rules did not explicitly provide authority for the general accepted practice of publishing rulings.  

Rule updated in Chapter 12: Qualifying Races, of the Standardbred Rules of Racing stating:

SB 12.02.01 When entering into overnight races, a horse’s individual time in its last clean charted line in a purse, qualifying or schooling race must meet the following time standard for the track at which it is entering to race, after the Judges have given appropriate allowances for track conditions on that day: 

Track size of last clean line 

Track size where entering to race ½ Mile Tracks 5/8 Mile Tracks 7/8 Mile+ Tracks 
½ Mile Pacers 2:04 2:03 2:02 
Trotters 2:07 2:06 2:05 
5/8 Mile Pacer 2:03 2:01 2:00 
Trotters 2:06 2:04 2:03 
7/8 Mile Pacers 2:02 2:00 1:59 
Trotters 2:05 2:03 2:02 


New rule added in Chapter 12: Qualifying Races, of the Standardbred Rules of Racing stating:

SB R. 12.02.03 For the purposes of determining eligibility for the Ontario Sire Stakes Prospect Series, rule 12.02.01 and 12.02.02 will apply. 

Rationale: This rule is changed at the request of Ontario Racing to encourage participation in the Ontario Sire Stakes Prospect Series. 

Rule updated in Chapter 14: Overnight Events, of the Standardbred Rules of Racing stating:

SB 14.06  Conditions:

  1. May be based only on: 
    1. Based on the purse a horse previously raced for;

Rationale: As a result of a multi-year pilot project at Mohawk Racetrack, this rule is being changed to provide additional flexibility for Standardbred Racing Secretaries to fill cards of racing.  

Rule updated in Chapter 20: Judges’ and Veterinarians’ Lists, of the Standardbred Rules of Racing stating:

SB 20.04.04 A horse scratched in accordance with 20.01(g) shall not be permitted to race other than to added money events for eight (8) days from the date of the race from which it was scratched. 

Rationale: This rule now includes the missing reference to “(g)” from 20.01 for which it applies.