While the Ontario government has yet to lift the COVID-19 stay-at-home order issued on April 8, officials at Woodbine have begun to take the necessary steps to kick off their 2021 live race meeting, targeting June 5 as its anticipated opening day. The 2020 meet began on June 6 after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The meet was scheduled to begin on April 17 but was delayed due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and the government’s lockdown order that shut down virtually all indoor and outdoor activities. The shutdown affected racing, even though Woodbine operated safely in 2020 without fans by enforcing strict COVID-19 protocols. Morning training has continued this spring with essential personnel taking care of the horses stabled at Woodbine. The same personnel would make up the bulk of individuals needed to race in the afternoon.
Operating under the assumption that restrictions will be eased in late May or early June as COVID-19 vaccinations rise and new cases decline, preparations for the opening of live racing are under way to help trainers have their horses and staff ready to go. As such, the first condition book and a revised stakes schedule will be released by Woodbine’s racing office on Saturday, May 15.
Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson, in a message to horse people, said that, while the company has no assurances from government for a June 5 opening, officials “continue to have positive discussions with the public health authorities” and have requested meetings with the Ministry of Health and Premier’s Office.
Track officials now estimate that 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.”
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2021 Paulick Report.