Horse Racing Could Return to Woodbine in June

“We’ve had 1,100 horses on the track every morning for two months now and we haven’t had any cases, knock on wood.”

TORONTO – Jim Lawson is cautiously optimistic there could be live horse racing as early as next month.

Buoying the Woodbine Entertainment CEO’s optimism is the Ontario government’s gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions Monday, allowing some mostly seasonal businesses to re-open. The novel coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of harness racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park in March and postponement of the April 18 start of Woodbine Racetrack’s thoroughbred campaign, and subsequently the $1-million Queen’s Plate.

Woodbine via WO FB pageBut Lawson sees the Ontario government’s actions as a sign that racing could return in early June ahead of other sports entities because it could be done safely and without fans. While the pandemic forced all major sports to shut down, harness racing continued without spectators before being suspended.

“The big proviso is we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, governmental and health authorities because that’s the wrong thing to do,” Lawson said. “But I do think if restrictions are eased, we’ve shown and exhibited already we’re capable of doing this.

“Not only did live racing occur at Mohawk without gatherings but with what we’ve achieved in our backstretch the last two months, we feel comfortable we can conduct safe racing. And when you combine safe racing with 15,000-20,000 people whose livelihoods really depend on this, we feel we’re a good model to help kick-start the economy.”

While no racing has occurred at Woodbine Racetrack, Woodbine Entertainment has continued operating its backstretch providing daily care for approximately 1,100 horses. Access has been limited to essential personnel – no jockeys, agents, trainers or media are allowed – and those individuals must strictly adhere to guidelines entirely consistent with those established by government and health agencies.

“We don’t need stands and it’s not like we have players rubbing against each other,” Lawson said. “There’s physical distancing by definition.

Some of the measures implemented by Woodbine include …

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 17-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the 2018 NHC Tour with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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