TORONTO, ON – During a live stream Tuesday, Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson laid out the preliminary plans to resume live racing in early June and to possibly hold its most prestigious race – the $1 million Queen’s Plate – in September.
Woodbine Entertainment, which operates both Woodbine Racetrack (for thoroughbreds) and Woodbine Mohawk Park (standardbreds), announced on March 15 that it was temporarily closing both facilities to the public until further notice due to the pandemic. Lawson stated that live thoroughbred racing could resume as soon as June 6, though track officials will continue to closely monitor the situation.
The facilities remain open for stabling and exercising upwards of 1,100 horses from 33 barns across 200 acres, and the few personnel permitted onsite are required to wear proper face covering.
“We need to keep people safe,” Lawson said. “I can’t underline that enough. We all want racing back … but I continue to stress that people need to be understanding and patient.”
With a June 6 start date in mind, Lawson stated that a stakes schedule could accompany meet’s first condition book when that information is released.
“We’re hoping to come out with a condition book at the end of this week (or) the beginning of next week,” Lawson said. “We’re planning on issuing the stakes schedule the same time as the condition book. We have that schedule pretty nailed down right now.”
Part of that schedule includes the Queen’s Plate, annually the most lucrative race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, that was originally slated for June 27. However, delaying the start of live racing created a domino effect that pushed the Queen’s Plate to a yet-to-be-named date, but Lawson was able to give some clarity as to when that will be held.
“We feel like we need a couple of months of prep races to get horses ready to go 1 1/4 miles,” Lawson said, explaining that a likely date for the Queen’s Plate would be sometime in September – thouh likely not on September 5, the newly-scheduled date for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Woodbine originally intended to host weekly live racing Wednesdays-Sundays, but as the 2020 meet commences, the calendar would be much smaller at first, then slowly build towards running more dates as time and the pandemic permits.
“The current plan is to start with an opening weekend on a Saturday and a Sunday,” Lawson said. “Two days the first week, then move to three days (Friday-Sunday) the following week, then move to four days.”
Lawson explained that Wednesday racing – traditionally held at night – would not return until spectators could safely attend, due to the food and beverage revenue that the track generates.
On a similar thread, Lawson stated that the purse structure would not be decreased, as many American tracks have done, due to an agreement already in place with partners in the Ontario racing industry. Previous speculation had suggested that the loss of revenue due to the onsite casino’s closure would force the track to respond accordingly.
“There’s no expectation that purses will be impacted this year (by loss of casino revenue,” Lawson said. “Our purses are not tied to casino revenue.”
Stay tuned to https://racingdudes.com for more information as the situation develops.