The first weekend of Woodbine’s 2021 racing season must be deemed a success and bodes well for when fans can finally be welcomed back to the track. Over $13.3 million was wagered on the Saturday and Sunday racing days in which 24 races were won by 19 different trainers.

Last June, when racing was delayed from April to June 6, the opening weekend handle was just over $11.3 million.

Spirits are up and finally, owners and horsepeople can begin collecting some purse money following a very long seven months. Racing was curtailed last November by the provincial government in a Covid-19 lockdown and was not able to begin until this weekend despite industry-wide pleas, led by Woodbine Entertainment’s CEO Jim Lawson. to get the sport re-started a lot closer to the original start date of April 17.

Racing will take place Friday through Sunday this coming week before going to a four-day schedule, Thursday through Sunday.

Owners Colebrook Farms and Ivan Dalos have two wins after the first weekend, five trainers have a pair and Emma-Jayne Wilson’s four-win weekend has her on top of the jockey list.

Champion 2-year-old of 2018 AVIE’S FLATTER made a sensational return to the races Sunday with a 5 1/4 length win in a seven-furlong allowance race in 1:21.49, good for a 96 Beyer Speed Figure according to Daily Racing Form. The 5-year-old horse by Flatter – Avie’s Empire by Empire Maker, owned and bred by Dalos and trained by Josie Carroll, had not raced since July 2020 when fourth in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup. The pretty bay had been second in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes in 2019 and third in the Breeders’ Stakes, each time leading late, but relished the return to a one-turn event as he blew away his rivals under Luis Contreras. It was a super training job by Carroll to have the horse fine-tuned for this win off an 11-month layoff.

Another eye-popping run on Sunday was that of the 6-year-old gelding TOWN CRUISE (Town Prize – Candy Cruise by Candy Ride (Arg)) who led all the way through 1 1/16 miles on the E.P. Taylor turf course to win an allowance race by three lengths in a jaw-dropping 1:38.97, good for a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Owned, trained and co-bred by Brandon Greer, Town Cruise was ridden by Daisuke Fukumoto. It was the gelding’s first race since November and first win since 2019. As an Ontario-bred and -sired horse, Town Cruise collected over $60,000 for the victory and he now has four wins in 11 races.

More winners:

Trainer Ashlee Brnjas was in the winner’s circle to greet DEALMAKER (We Miss Artie), owned and bred by her father John’s Colebrook Farms (co-bred by Northview Stables), when he sped to his maiden win in race 1. The Colebrook horses have been noticeable on the worktabs in the morning and most of them ran very well on opening weekend.

FINAL STRIKE was one of four winners by Ontario sire SOCIETY’S CHAIRMAN on Sunday. This 4-year-old had not placed in the top three in 11 previous races but rolled to his maiden win in this 2021 debut for Josie DePaulo and trainer/husband Mike.

KUDURO won race 3 for $10,000 claiming for JDLP Holdings Inc. and trainer Steven Chircop. The Danza gelding had won his 2020 finale in November. Rafael Hernandez rode.

Colebrook Farms’ WAVE BABY was a longshot winner of a maiden special weight at 1 mile on turf, race 4, and was another winner by Society’s Chairman. The 4-year-old, bred by Bonnie Rowntree, was ridden by Leo Salles. Wave Baby was bought as a yearling at the 2018 CTHS sale for $110,000.

YOLA, yet another Society’s Chairman offspring, won race 5 as favourite for Martin Drexler and 159389 Ontario. Yola was claimed for $15,000 from his finale in 2020 and won this $15,000 claiming race at 5 furlongs on turf while running without the claiming price (as per new ‘waiver’ claiming aspect for horses returning off a layoff and making their first start of the meet).

John Scott’s GIANT CRITIC, claimed from his final outing of 2020 for $15,000, won race 6 for $25,000 claiming (he was entered without the claiming price). The Giant Gizmo gelding is trained by Francine Villeneuve. Scott and Villeneuve had four starts on the weekend and had a win, a second and a third.

SHAKOO MAKOO (Reload) won his maiden in race 7 with Ademar Santos for owner and trainer Laura Krasuaskaite. Bred by Jennifer Leuty, Shakoo Makoo was bought for just $2,000 at the 2019 CTHS yearling sale.

The first tote-exploding longshot winner came in race 8 Sunday when SEVENTYSEVEN STONE came from far behind to win the 6 1/2 furlong, $7,500 claiming race at 59-to-1. Owned by MPB Stables and trained by Paul Lepiane, the giant 7-year-old gelding was racing at two-turns distances for most of 2020, including a third-place finish in the Tour de Fort at 2 miles and 70 yards. Winless since Dec. 2019 when he won at 7 furlongs at Woodbine, Seventyseven Stone posted a career best Beyer Figure in this 43rd career race of 76 and Sunny Singh rode.

Trainer Jamie Attard brought back RED FICTION from a 1 1/2 year layoff to win race 10, an optional claiming race, at five furlongs, 56.84. The Signature Red gelding, owned and bred by Howard Walton, was ridden by Patrick Husbands.

H C HOLIDAY, making his second career start and first for trainer Kevin Attard, was a 10-to-1 upset winner in a maiden optional event, race 12. Owned and bred by Ivan Dalos, HC Holiday debuted for Mike Maker at Turfway in December and finished 11th. He is from the first crop of Ami’s Holiday and from the mare Henry’s Collection and the colt is a Queen’s Plate nominee.

The last race of the day was won by the four-year-old POUND GREEN, a Society’s Chairman gelding and half-brother to Horse of the Year Lexie Lou, owned and trained by Roger Attfield. Bred by Sherry McLean, the gelding had been second in two of three races in 2020.

The Tapeta surface on Sunday was faster than it was on opening day but played fairly.

*Jockey Leo Salles had a rough opening weekend as he was dinged with two suspensions totaling 13 days. Salles was assigned three-days when his mount Miss Floki came in and caused interference in a maiden race Saturday. He was given 10 days for an incident in Saturday’s 11th race when his mount Queen Beach appeared to come out and cause Super Jade to clip heels and fall. Super Jade did not survive.