Rideau Ramps Up For Potential Return

Published: February 6, 2021 04:16 pm EST

Officials with Rideau Carleton Raceway are preparing for a mid-month return to harness racing in the event that the current provincial restrictions in Ontario are lifted early next week.

According to racing manager Peter Andrusek, Rideau Carleton Raceway is preparing to race on Sunday, Feb. 14 should the provincial government allow it. Premier Doug Ford is expected to make an announcement on Monday (Feb. 8) regarding the current state of emergency that's set to expire on Tuesday. Many expect Ford to announce that earlier restrictions prompted by province's coronavirus pandemic numbers will be relaxed, with a return to live harness racing possible but by no means guaranteed.

"The situation is fluid," said Andrusek, "and right now we do not have anything concrete from the province directing us with respect to our race program or the likelihood of lifting the restrictions to it. That being said, in order to race on the 14th we have to be proactive. We can't turn the switch on two days or three days before our first live card."

If approval is granted, the plan would be for Rideau to host qualifiers on Thursday (Feb. 11) at 10:00 a.m. before its first live pari-mutuel card on Sunday (Feb. 14). The entry box for that Sunday card would close on Feb. 11 at 12:00 p.m. Subsequent qualifying days would be Wednesdays, according to Andrusek.

Andrusek told Rideau's Graeme Mitchell that the lack of answers from government with respect to the rationale for suspending racing has been extremely frustrating.

"This has been very difficult for us, because I know I've been working very closely with [National Capital Region Harness Horse Association director] John [MacMillan] as he has mentioned. This time around, unlike the spring, the province has not been very forthcoming in terms of the conditions that would be required to lift the lockdown or our restrictions to racing. I've been on the phone everyday, me and John, trying to get that information for you and it has been very, very frustrating because that [information] has not been made available to us. It ain't just us...Ontario Racing has worked very hard in this regard to make our case, to solicit information for you, Woodbine and the other racetracks. But this time, it's just been a very, very frustrating process."

Andrusek pointed out that the COVID-19 case count in the Ottawa region has been very low, providing him with some optimism that a return to racing and opening up of the economy in the not-to-distant future isn't a pipedream in that regard, nothing that "there's tremendous pressure in the business community in this region to open this territory up."

As far as the on-track product is concerned, race secretary Ian Fleming noted that the condition sheet for the Feb. 14 card should look very familiar to Rideau's horsepeople but how those classes fill will definitely depend on whether those horses that raced there most recently are ready to drop in the box.

"When the announcement's made Monday we'll know whether we'll be using [the condition sheet] or not."

As far as a clean line requirement goes, Fleming noted that the current window is 60 days plus an allowance for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from the day the entry box closes -- February 11.

"If there was a draw on February 11, you would go back 62 days from then. If you has a clean line in between those 62 days you'd be good to enter for the 14th."

The video also discusses the importance of maintaining the high standards of health guidelines and protocols in place and if those standards might need to be more stringent, whether the track will be open for training, who would be allowed to enter at Rideau, and whether the re-opening of Rideau would necessarily mean that other racetracks would be granted the same lifting of restrictions.



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