Between Woodbine Entertainment’s CEO Jim Lawson and the board of directors, the HBPA of Ontario and Ontario Racing, strategies are being sought to help out horsepeople at Woodbine Mohawk and Woodbine who have, or will not have, the chance at purse money because of the postponement of racing.
Standardbred horsepeople, who have been idle for a few weeks since Woodbine Mohawk racing was suspended, are already in line to receive a financial assistance, a total of $300 per horse, to those involved with Standardbred racehorses who were in-to-race at operational racetracks from March 19 to March 24.
On the most recent edition of the DOWN THE STRETCH PODCAST (March 30), Lawson spoke to Toronto Mike (one of the city’s most popular podcasters with over 600 Toronto podcasts, also hosts DTS podcast, hosted by Peter Gross, on his site) about the current status of Woodbine’s two tracks. Woodbine Thoroughbreds are in light training on the backstretch but the season has been delayed. April 18 was the opening day and 25 race dates (of 133) were set to run between that day and the end of May.
While the immediate future is uncertain for the thousands of people and horses in horse racing, Lawson is optimistic the industry will get back on track when the pandemic ends.
“We’re on hold, it’s the best way to describe it,” said Lawson.
“In light of the announcement from the provincial government that only essential businesses can operate for the next two weeks, and it is looking like longer than that. It was just going to be too hard to keep going; not just the internal and external input to put on live racing of any kind without without spectators. We had to make a decision that not only was racing not an essential business, it would not be practical to attempt it without external help such as CPMA, AGCO which are required to run racing.”
“I am very concerned for people in this industry without access to purse money.”
Lawson noted that the board of Woodbine approached the AGCO and OLG in an effort to discuss the possibility of diverting potential purse money into a relief fund. There is reportedly another meeting this week with the OLG.
“We have tried to impress upon on government that this is a desperate situation for people working in the industry. On the Thoroughbred side people have gone a long time without a paycheque.”
“But when we get past this [pandemic], we are going to turn this around and we will be back and be back strong. Mohawk will be the top standardbred track in North America and Woodbine will continue with its strong brand. I’m optimistic for that.”