- Ontario’s Woodbine Racing will begin a 99 day 2021 race meet starting on Saturday, June 12 with closing day set for December 5.
- There will be no spectators allowed at the start of the meet though hopes are high for fans to attend later.
- The $1 million CAD Queen’s Plate will headline the August 22 race card.
On the heels of Oaklawn Park’s announcement of an extended 2021-2022 race meet comes some more good news for horse racing enthusiasts–this time, from North of the Border. Ontario’s Woodbine Racetrack is set to begin a 99 day race meet starting on Saturday, June 12. The meet was scheduled to start in April but was forced to delay opening due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The meet is scheduled to conclude on December 5.
The timing of the meet opening is not a coincidence. Ontario is moving to ‘Step 1’ of their provincial reopening roadmap at 12:01 AM on Friday, June 11. On balance, Canada is several months behind the United States in terms of reopening the country from the COVID-19 lockdowns. Step 1 in Ontario will provide for limited outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, patio dining for parties of three or fewer and limited non-essential retail capped at 15% of capacity. According to the Ontario roadmap each step will be maintained for a minimum of 21 days meaning that the move to Step 2 will come no sooner than early July.
That’s significant for Woodbine as that’s when they’d likely be able to admit a limited number of spectators to live racing events. For now, they’ll run without fans in attendance. For the most part, the racing will be held on a Thursday through Sunday schedule with a standard post time of 1:20 PM Eastern. Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson is anxious to get horse fans back to the track and to outdoor dining at the popular third floor Champions Patio:
“We’re anxious to get people back. We won’t hold them back any more than the government requires us to. My understanding is we can do things on a limited basis in step two of the reopening. We want to get the Champions patio going as early as possible. It’s one of the best patios in the city. Our food is great. The view is great. We have some ambitious plans to transform that area in the future.”
The 2021 meet will get underway with an 11-race card on Saturday that includes a $50,000 guaranteed Pick 5 pool and $100,000 guaranteed early Pick 4. The Jackpot Hi-5 will resume, with a carryover of $117,062.64. Wagering will be available via horse racing apps throughout Canada and worldwide. Many will also offer video of the races and they’ll be available at Woodbine.com.
Hopes are high that a good sized crowd will be allowed to attend the marquee stakes event of the Woodbine season, the $1 million CAD Queen’s Plate scheduled for August 22. If we’ve learned anything during the COVID-19 pandemic it’s the futility of predicting what will happen when in terms of reopening but by late August the province should be well into Step 3 of the reopening plan at which point spectators will be allowed at horse tracks with ‘capacity limits and other restrictions’. What those ‘limits and restrictions’ will be are unclear and the regulatory documents outlining the restrictions are downright inscrutable. The Queen’s Plate 2020 was pushed back to September and the 2021 date of late August is also an accommodation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Queen’s Plate is traditionally run in June. This year, the race will be held on a Sunday as not to compete with the Saturday card from Saratoga.
More details on the 2021 stakes schedule are expected soon.