Ontario’s provincial government has just unveiled its new economic restart plan, this has also sparked the recommencing of the live harness season in the province. Woodbine Entertainment wasted no time and announced that its standardbred and thoroughbred will start in the middle of June. Most recently the company updated its stakes schedule for its thoroughbred season at the Woodbine Racetrack.
Unfortunately for horse racing enthusiasts and the industry’s many workers, the live harness events were canceled at the start of April, with the provincial government’s latest stay-at-home order. This has left Ontario’s equine industry with a two months suspension, leading to huge concerns about the long-term wellbeing of the sport.
However, the horse racing industry can now recommence and try to recover from its difficult state. Woodbine Entertainment has announced its new updated thoroughbred stakes calendar for its Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. As things stand the season is set to begin on June 18, but there is a possibility of an earlier launch, provided that the government approves the company’s request.
The 2021 Thoroughbred stakes program includes events with more than CA$16.5 million in stakes purses, with 39 graded stakes and two CA$1 million gala events. Due to the delayed start, the company had to make some small alterations to the racing schedule, but most of its event dates have remained the original ones.
The Queen’s Plate is set to keep its initial starting date of, August 22, this year’s edition is on schedule to be its 162nd event of this kind. The Grade 1 the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, along with Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In”, Grade 2 CA$250,000 Canadian Stakes will be held on September 18. The Natalma Grade 1 and Summer Grade 1 will have an increased purse of CA$400,000 and a part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, which will be run on September 19.
The Grade 1 CA$600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes and the Grade 2 CA$250,000 Nearctic Stakes will be keeping their original date of October 17, 2021. The races will be held at the renowned mile and a half E.P. Taylor Turf Course. The dates for the Canadian Triple Crown legs and the CA $1 million Queen’s Plate remain for August 22. The CA$400,000 Prince of Wales at Fort Erie on September 14 and the CA$400,000 Breeders’ Stakes on October 3, remain intact.
Most of the major live harness races have remained with the same starting date, except for the CA$500,000 Woodbine Oaks that is presented by Budweiser has been shifted with a week from July 25 to August 1. The CA$150,000 Plate Trial has also been rescheduled for a week to August 1. The full stakes schedule can be found on the horse racing leader’s official website.
Previously, the other horse racing venue of Woodbine Entertainment – Woodbine Mohawk Park has announced its action-packed qualifiers session that took place at the end of May. The session was divided into a three-day schedule with over 44 qualifiers, and 377 horses participating. The first session was on May 27, with 14 qualifiers, then one on the next day with 15, and the last day Saturday with the rest of the races.
Request for an Earlier Start
Woodbine Entertainment set two official starting dates for its thoroughbred season at Woodbine Racetrack and standardbred season starts at Woodbine Mohawk Park, with respective launch dates of June 18 and June 14. However, the CEO of the company Jim Lawson has voiced its intention to apply for a preliminary start of live harness season, on the basis that horsepeople have already prepared for the start and are already at the tracks eagerly awaiting.
Source: “Woodbine unveils updated 2021 Thoroughbred stakes schedule”, Woodbine Entertainment, May 28, 2021
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