Woodbine Entertainment unveiled its stakes schedule today for the 2021 Thoroughbred racing season at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, set to open April 17 (subject to the latest Ontario Government COVID-19 protocols).
The lucrative 2021 Thoroughbred stakes program will offer more than $16.5 million in purses across 87 stakes and feature a pair of $1 million classics, including the iconic Queen’s Plate (Sunday, August 22), as well as the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Saturday, September 18), a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” race. The Grade 1 $600,000 Pattison Canadian International returns after a year hiatus due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and will be featured on the Woodbine Mile card along with the Grade 2 $250,000 Canadian Stakes. The Grade 1 Natalma and Grade 1 Summer, both designated as Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” races, have each received notable purse increases to $400,000 from $250,000. The Grade 1 Highlander Stakes, with an increased purse of $350,000 (up from $300,000), also returns after a year hiatus due to the pandemic and will be featured on The Queen’s Plate card on August 22. Purses for all Grade 3 Stakes races at Woodbine Racetrack are also receiving a 20% increase to $150,000.
“We are excited to bring back the Pattison Canadian International as part of our world-class stakes schedule for the 2021 Thoroughbred meet at Woodbine Racetrack,” said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. “The 2021 stakes schedule includes several significant purse increases, including the Grade 1 Natalma and Grade 1 Summer, as well as all Grade 3 stakes. These increases, along with a strong complement of stakes races for all ages, and robust Ontario Bred stakes offerings, will deliver exciting racing, competitive fields, and an abundance of wagering options available on Woodbine’s outstanding live racing product.”
The Toronto racetrack will host the first and third legs of the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, starting with the 162nd running of the historic Queen’s Plate and concluding with the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes on Sunday, October 3. The second leg, the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run at Fort Erie Race Track on Tuesday, September 14.
On September 19, a pair of juvenile Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” races take the spotlight, the Grade 1 Natalma for two-year-old fillies and Grade 1 Summer for two-year-olds. The Woodbine Cares and Ontario Racing Stakes, juvenile Inner Turf stakes introduced in 2019, will be contested on the same Sunday with purses of $125,000 each.
On Sunday, October 17, the $600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1) headlines the day and serves as the final leg of Woodbine’s Ladies of the Lawn Series, which offers $75,000 in bonuses to the top performers based on points accumulated in the designated graded turf routes for fillies and mares. The series also includes $175,000 Dance Smartly Stakes (Grade 2) and $250,000 Canadian Stakes (Grade 2). The winner of the Ladies of the Lawn Series in 2020 was Elizabeth Way.
The $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, first leg of the prestigious Canadian Triple Tiara, headlines another major race card on Sunday, July 25, which includes the $150,000 Plate Trial, a key prep on the road to The Queen’s Plate.
A strong Ontario Bred stakes offering includes the reinstatement of the Sir Barton Stakes, Shady Well Stakes, and Clarendon, each carrying a $150,000 purse.
“Our Ontario Bred and Ontario Sired stakes calendar and strong overnight opportunities remain an integral part of our racing program at Woodbine,” Lawson said. “We have very attractive opportunities for Ontario horses to stay and race at home and are excited about the return of the stakes races we were not able to run last year.”
The other classics for horses foaled in Canada are the Bison City (Sunday, August 15), Wonder Where (Saturday, October 2), Cup & Saucer (Sunday, October 10), Princess Elizabeth (Saturday, October 23) and Coronation Futurity (Saturday, October 30). Each race carries a purse of $250,000.
Woodbine will celebrate Canada Day with a special Thursday afternoon program on July 1 highlighted by the Grade 3 Dominion Day.
This year’s Yearling Sales Stakes day, slated for Sunday, August 29, will feature four stakes, including a pair of two-year-old events (Simcoe and Muskoka) and a pair of three-year-old events (Elgin and Algoma).
Also of note for 2021, Listed races have increased purses to $125,000, boosted from $100,000.
“Last year was obviously a challenging year for the industry due to COVID-19,” remarked Lawson. “While Woodbine Entertainment and the horse racing industry continue to be impacted, we are hopeful that the pandemic in Ontario improves in the coming months, allowing businesses and industries to safely re-open, including our ability to start our 2021 meet as planned on Saturday, April 17.”
Woodbine’s 2021 stakes schedule is subject to approval by the Graded Stakes Committee.