Representatives from the BHRC and STAGBI have just returned from the 25th World Trotting Conference (WTC) held this year in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The 2017 WTC was originally scheduled to be in Sweden, but following a request from Canada the destination was changed to Canada so as to coincide with the double anniversaries of 250 years of Horse Racing in Canada and 150 years of the Confederation of Canada.

Standardbred Canada took the decision to host the WTC on Prince Edward Island during "Old Home Week" which culminates in the running of PEI's signature race, The Gold Cup and Saucer. This race is unique as post time is one minute to midnight amidst a huge gathering of passionate harness racing fans and a commentator that really gets the crowd going. If you ever get the opportunity to attend "Old Home Week" and witness the Gold Cup & Saucer then don't turn it down.

Standardbred Canada's theme for the conference was "Investing for the future" and much discussion took place on where the sport/industry is heading rather than where it has been.

This year there were delegates in attendance from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, GB, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, Sweden, USA and the UET. Each country attending is required to provide conference with their breeding and racing statistics and comparative figures from GB hold up well. Whilst each country's size and scale of operation can be very different, many of the challenges faced are very similar. The WTC can be a very sociable event for those attending but delegates and observers do get down to dealing with business each day through a number of committee meetings and symposiums.

One delegate from each country sits on Constitution & Regulation Committee, thereafter each delegate will sit on two of the four other standing committees, namely Equine Health & Integrity; Racing & Wagering Committee; Breeding Committee and Marketing & Business, throughout the week.

Key discussion points from each committee included:

Constitution & Regulation Committee: ITA membership categories; proposed classification of ITA countries; advance planning for future hosts of the WTC and World Driving Championship BHRC delegate Jim McInally highlighted GBs absence from recent WDCs and should be congratulated on his persistence and insistence in negotiating a possible pathway of invitation for British driver through a proposed change in selection process to be considered at next years inter conference meeting in Sweden 2018.

Equine Health & Integrity: International sharing of integrity intelligence; respect of penalty enforcement across ITA countries; sharing of international equine health and welfare statistics and recognizing the use of the whip as a welfare, rather than a performance, issue in the sport.

Racing & Wagering Committee: Advancing international growth of wagering markets for harness racing; addressing illegal wagering and ensuring/promoting good relationships with government, including maintaining and providing appropriate data about the industry's value.

Marketing & Business: Quantifying worldwide impact of harness racing; strengthening international communication, including social media; and comparative evaluation of horses and drivers worldwide.

Breeding Committee: Creating a global portal for the sharing of information between countries; introduction of microchipping in Australsia & North America (it may surprise you that currently within the ITA only European countries microchip horses, and Standardbreds in GB was one of the first to be microchipping); electronic exchange of export certificates, mating certificates & transfers; Embryo Transfers and breeding mares whilst still racing.

A fuller report of discussions and recommendations of each standing committee will follow in due course. Many of the topics raised and discussed in the committee were further explored in the 2 day symposium held within the conference. The symposium included 38 invited international speakers bringing a wealth of expertise, experience and knowledge to assist in addressing various issues within harness racing and including marketing, wagering, simulcasting, breeding and the use (or possibly more appropriately the miss-use) of the whip.

The World Trotting Conference also runs alongside World Driving Championship. The eleven invited drivers from ten different countries (the defending champion gets an automatic invitation) took part in 22 races in four different provinces of Canada. The final leg was held at Red Shores Racetrack, Charlottetown on the Friday night where Canadian driver James MacDonald emerged victorious winning $25,000 a hometown triumph for MacDonald and the first-ever Canadian to claim the international title on home turf. It was good to hear Dexter Dunne from NZ encouraging his fellow drivers to seize the invitation extended to them to come and visit GB.

The International Media Awards were presented at the Closing ceremony, congratulations to S4Cs Rasus Tregaron (Best TV Programme) and Sarah Thomas' Blog Page (Best Social Media) on making it to the last 3 in their respective categories. They may not have won the awards but have now been seen by delegates from all over the world.

There was much discussion and information shared at this year's conference. The welcome from Standardbred Canada was fantastic. The participation, the sharing of information, networking with and seeking advice from other international representatives will hopefully benefit the breed and the sport here in the Great Britain

Ryan O Neil, Jim McInally & Gwenan Thomas