Woodbine Entertainment has been proactive throughout the long ‘stay at home’ order in Ontario that has delayed its 2021 racing season since April 17.
This Saturday, May 15, the track will issue a new condition book and stakes schedule with a starting date for the meeting of June 5, so far nine stakes worth over $1.4 million have not be able to run. The anticipated start date is three days after the order is expected to be lifted by the Province of Ontario, it had originally been scheduled to be lifted May 20 but recently extended two more weeks to get past the Victoria Day long weekend, May 22 – May 24.
Ontario has endured a spike in COVID-19 cases since the winter, putting record numbers of people in the ICU that has crippled the hospitals.
Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson, who has been vocal on social media towards Ontario health officials and the Conservative Party under Premier Doug Ford, issued a notice to Woodbine horsepeople on May 12 emphasizing that there have been no assurances from government for a June 5 opening but that officials “continue to have positive discussions with the public health authorities” and have requested meetings with the Ministry of Health and Premier’s Office.
Lawson said about 75% of essential frontline horse people have received at least their first vaccination dose, with many workers taking advance of a Pop-Up Vaccine Clinic at Woodbine last weekend. They are hoping to be close to 100% by May 31.
“As I have mentioned to media and government officials, I am growing tired of offering hope,” Lawson wrote in his message to horse people. “I would like nothing more than to provide you with the certainty you require and deserve. However, right now we need to remain patient while knowing that we continue to do everything we can to resume live racing in Ontario as soon as possible.”
Horses have been training at Woodbine since the first week of March. Some have been shipped to US tracks for races but the bulk have remained, hoping for good news for a start to the season soon.
FORT ERIE RACETRACK is scheduled to begin June 1 but as that is before the stay-at-home order is to be lifted, it is expected that track will be delayed.
Throughout the rest of Canada, Hastings Racecourse has already opened for racing in Vancouver. Century Mile in Alberta opens Sunday, May 16 and Assiniboia Downs opens May 17.