The 2017 World Trotting Conference concluded with its official closing ceremony on Saturday at the Delta Prince Edward, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The torch was passed from Canada to Sweden, where the Conference will be hosted in 2019.
Standardbred Canada president and CEO, Dan Gall addressed the international delegates and observers.
"We have identified through the committee work a distinct message of committing to be open, and a commitment to work together better than we have in the past," said Gall.
"I have heard the need to be action-based and results-oriented as a priority for the International Trotting Association. We are working as a united front in the best interests of our sport, and the interests around the world are very similar. As champions and leaders of our sport, it’s incumbent on us to take our sport forward in the future.
"We must ask the customer how they want us to move forward. We need to listen to our customers, at our racetracks, in our paddocks and of course, our fans. By listening to them, our job is relatively easy."
Prior to closing the conference, Gall thanked the efforts of delegates, management, staff, volunteers, and the province of Prince Edward Island.
"Kent Oakes and his team at Red Shores have done a fantastic job," said Gall. "I can’t believe the number of people that have told me how great it was to have hosted this event in Prince Edward Island. There is a great link between harness racing and the province of PEI. It is a model for all of us to aspire towards."
International Trotting Association committees also presented their reports and recommendations during the ceremonies. Edward Rennell, of New Zealand (Constitution committee), discussed membership categories, the classification of countries participating at conferences, and early planning for future WTC and WDC sites.
T.C. Lane, of the United States (Breeding committee), said that his committee looked at issues including data sharing; microchipping; moving toward wider use of electronic export certificates; and genomic research in Standardbreds.
Ken Spicer, of New Zealand (Health and welfare committee), spoke about uniformity in penalty enforcement across ITA countries; sharing of international equine health and welfare statistics; and recognizing the whip as a welfare, rather than a performance, issue in the sport.
Geoff Want, from Australia (Racing and wagering committee), said his committee focused on international growth of wagering markets for harness racing; addressing illegal wagering; and ensuring good relationships with government, including maintaining and providing appropriate data about the industry’s value.
Mike Tanner, of the United States (Marketing and business development committee), reported on his committee’s discussion of quantifying worldwide impact; strengthening international communication, including social media; and comparative evaluation of horses and drivers worldwide.
Kathy Wade Vlaar, Standardbred Canada's manager of industry marketing, shared her final assessments of the 2017 World Driving Championship.
"With three plane trips and multiple bus trips, aside from putting on a great show, the drivers were great ambassadors for their countries and for harness racing," said Wade Vlaar.
Next, the ITA’s International Media Award winners were announced, with national representatives present accepting on behalf of their countries’ top journalists, photographers, broadcasters, and new media.
Canada formally handed over the World Trotting Conference and World Driving Championship to Sweden, the host of both events in two years.
"It was great to be in Charlottetown for the World Trotting Conference," said Johan Lindberg, the Secretary General of Svensk Travsport (Swedish Trotting Association). "Old Home Week will be something I will always remember. In less than two years, we will go to Sweden. Like with the Gold Cup & Saucer, the event will coincide with the Elitloppet - one of the biggest events in our country."
Sweden had generously deferred hosting the 2017 editions, in order to permit Canada to do so during the 250th anniversary of its first-ever horse race and "Canada 150" celebrations recognizing a century-and-a-half of existence as a nation.