In communication reported on Wednesday, Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson told the horsepeople at Woodbine Racetrack to prepare for an early June start date. Trot Insider asked Lawson if the harness racing industry should prepare accordingly.
On Wednesday, Lawson suggested a tentative starting date of June 5 to the thoroughbred community “for preparation purposes only” noting that the track plans to release its first condition book of the season and a revised stakes schedule this Saturday.
“The target start date, and the accompanying condition book, are being provided to help trainers prepare for the opening of our season,” Lawson said in the email. “We have not yet received any information or assurances from the Government of Ontario regarding being permitted to resume racing by this date.
“That said, we continue to have positive discussions with the public health authorities and have recently requested meetings with the Ministry of Health and Premier’s Office. We will provide you updates as we learn more.”
On Thursday, Lawson confirmed that the work on the Standardbred side is just as active, while remaining optimistic for resuming in early June and stressing that these dates are in no way etched in stone.
"We are equally preparing and planning in getting racing going for both our tracks as soon as possible," Lawson told Trot Insider on Thursday morning. "As you know, the Condition Books for the thoroughbreds come out weeks in advance and for our first one, we generally put it out over a month in advance so people can plan the training regimen. The June 5 date was put out there to, in part, provide a framework for our revised stakes schedule including the preps for our Triple Crown and Triple Tiara series.
"We are planning on getting condition sheets out for Mohawk well in advance and feel that this next week is a pivotal week for a read on timing for both our tracks. This read will also determine when we will commence qualifiers."
There's been a push for the provincial government to allow outdoor activities like golf and horse racing to resume, with Standardbred Canada among the organizations mobilizing its membership to ask for the permission to participate like nearly every other Canadian province.
"The government is under enormous pressure to allow outdoor activities and they may do so by the end of the month, and they should do so as the risks associated with outdoor activities is substantially less," Lawson continued. "Our key message is that such risk reduces much further when you are outside and masked and distanced. Those conditions all exist with horse racing so there is no logical reason we cannot proceed; in fact, given our protocols which are strictly enforced, horse racing is much safer than the outdoor activities which the government is presently contemplating. The safety record of horse racing during this pandemic is indisputable evidence that this is true.
"Finally, operating live racing in this Province is absolutely essential - the industry employs approximately 25,000 people and the health and welfare of these [participants] has not been fairly considered and now is the time for the government to take the time to understand and do the right thing. On that basis, we are hopeful that live racing will resume in Ontario on the same time frame as other outdoor activities."