MIGHTY HEART gets his 4-year-old campaign underway at Keeneland racecourse in Lexington, KY on Saturday, April 17 in an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on dirt. Lawrence Cordes’ colt, voted Horse of the Year and Champion 3-year-old male at the Sovereign Awards on April 15, is in post 6 in a 7-horse field in race 8 which goes at 4:57 p.m.

Josie Carroll has hired James Graham to ride Mighty Heart, who makes his first start since he was fourth in the Ontario Derby (G3). Mighty Heart is listed as a 3-to-1 second choice to South Bend, who was fourth in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes last summer before finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby.

In the next race at Keeneland, the Grade 2 Elkhorn, Ontario-bred SAY THE WORD, crowned the Champion Turf Male at the Sovereigns, is 7-to-2 in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf. Sam-Son Farms is co-owner and the breeder of the 6-year-old More Than Ready gelding who was second in the Grade 3 San Luis Rey Stakes in his latest start. Say the Word’s dam Danceforthecause was named Outstanding Broodmare at the Sovereigns. She is now owned by Gainesway Farm.

Speaking of Sam-Son, which received a Special Sovereign Award on Thursday night, its trainer Gail Cox unleashed a nice 3-year-old prospect last weekend at Gulfstream.

TIDAL FORCES, a son of Malibu Moon, won a 1 1/18 mile turf race in his career debut with a Beyer Figure of 70. The promising colt is a Queen’s Plate eligible. While Sam-Son has dispersed its broodmare band, Rick Balaz said the farm hoped to continue racing for ‘another couple of years.’

Waiting game

While a few Canadian stables continue to race and train in the U.S., the Woodbine backstretch is fuller than it every has been as most stables stayed home this winter. Racing at Woodbine was scheduled to begin tomorrow, April 17, but with the current Stay-at-Home order from the Ontario government, the start of the meet is on hold.

The Stay-at-Home order was initially set to end May 6, although with COVID-19 positives and hospital numbers all rising quickly, the province is expected to announce stricter measures in a 2:30 announcement today.

Ontario Racing, Woodbine and the HBPA have been in constant communication with the province and health officials as they seek a mobile vaccine unit for the Woodbine backstretch to help in a quicker return to racing.

In 2020, the Woodbine season was delayed until the first week of June.

Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver is scheduled to start its meet May 3 although the province of B.C. has been in similar COVID-19 turmoil.

Interestingly, Hastings changed its race days for 2021 recently and will race Monday and Tuesday evenings opposite races from Assiniboia Downs. The Hastings meet opens Monday, May 3, continues the following Monday, then races on Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18 which are the first two days of the ASD meet. Hastings’ post time is 7 p.m. central; ASD races go at 7:30 p.m. Hastings will continue thereafter on Mondays and Tuesdays while ASD will race on a Monday-to-Wednesday schedule.

As for racing at Century Mile, scheduled to begin May 7, on Tuesday (April 6), Jason Kenney, premier of Alberta, announced that expanded restrictions are back in place across the province as the result of an increased risk from variants of COVID-19. The news is testing the resiliency of the racing industry, and horsemen’s concerns were discussed during the COVID-19 Response Planning meeting Wednesday (April 7).

Horse Racing Alberta, tracks and horsemen’s organizations are committed to working together to ensure the health and safety of racing participants, as well as a strategy to move racing forward.

Horse Racing Alberta is working with the Alberta Health Emergency Operations Centre Stakeholder Relations Team to establish protocols that would allow live racing to resume without spectators. The request has been made for the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association to resume their spring race meet in a bubble, like other sports. Training at Century Mile, The Track On 2, Century Downs and Rocky Mountain Turf Club will continue with all essential personnel fully following all COVID-19 prevention protocols.

The financial impact of the continued closure of racing entertainment centres is being assessed, and a special meeting of the board has been called for next week.

Horse Racing Alberta has initiated conversations with different levels of government, and continues to stress the importance of racing within the provincial economy.