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Ontario 'Horse Racing' Can Open / Expand Services Effective May 19

Published: May 14, 2020 3:07 pm ET

Last Comment: May 17, 2020 3:18 pm ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

On Thursday, May 14, the Ontario government announced the retailers, seasonal businesses and health and community service providers that will be permitted to open or expand their services on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. 'Horse racing' was one of the entities included in the announcement.

The permission from the province has come provided that the general trend on health indicators continues to improve as part of the first stage of the government's reopening framework, according to a release. The workplaces opening as part of this stage are 'well-positioned to put workplace safety measures in place and get more people back to work, while not overburdening public transit and other services.'

"During the last several weeks, the people of Ontario have been called on to make incredible sacrifices to help us stop the spread of COVID-19, including staying home from work, closing down businesses and going without a regular paycheque," Ontario Premier Doug Ford was quoted as saying. Premier Ford went on to state that the province is, "taking a cautious, balanced approach to our economic reopening, to protect the health and safety of everyone."

As part of its release, the government has stated Ontario's first stage of reopening will begin on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and will include:

• Seasonal businesses and recreational activities for individual or single competitors, including training and sport competitions conducted by a recognized national or provincial sport organization. This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators, such as tennis, track and field and horse racing.

"We are taking a cautious, practical and reasonable approach to restarting the economy, while maintaining the health and safety of the people of Ontario as our top priority," Minister of Finance Rod Phillips was quoted as saying. "This will allow Ontario to emerge from this outbreak with a clear path to economic recovery that keeps people safe and healthy."

To read the release in its entirety, click here.

After the government's Thursday announcement, Woodbine Entertainment followed suit with its own comment on the matter, and it was, again, one of optimism.

The contents of the Woodbine press release appear below.


The return of live horse racing in the Province of Ontario just got one step closer.

Earlier today, the Ontario government announced a framework to gradually reopen the province in stages. Stage 1, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, May 19, allows for horse racing without spectators and physical distancing measures in place.

“This is great news for the sport of horse racing and the tens of thousands of people it employs throughout the province,” said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. “With this news, our plans to resume Standardbred racing at Mohawk Park on June 5 and Thoroughbred racing on June 6 at Woodbine remain on track. We appreciate the government’s recognition that we can operate spectator-free horse racing safely by following strict physical distancing protocols.

“I would also like to thank the entire horse racing community for their patience, understanding and commitment in following health guidelines during this time. In doing so, it has put the entire industry in the position to resume live horse racing in the coming weeks.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, harness racing at Mohawk Park was suspended on March 19, while the opening of Woodbine’s Thoroughbred season, originally scheduled for April 18, was postponed.


(With files from the Government of Ontario)

May 17, 2020 - 3:18 pmI'm surprised that Mohawk

Mike Mobley SAID...

I'm surprised that Mohawk hasn't announced the postponement of The Graduate and The Somebeachsomewhere, (both scheduled for 6/6) even though it will be open again by then. Mohawk cancelled The North America Cup a month ago, and that wasn't scheduled until two weeks later. The Graduate and The Somebeachsomewhere could both be reslated for 6/20, which was supposed to be NAC night, without interfering with any stakes races held elsewhere.

May 15, 2020 - 11:31 amThe fact that some T-bred

Don Patrick SAID...

The fact that some T-bred tracks never stopped racing is proof that racing can be done safely to some extent. But it will only take one incident to lose the ground that has been gained.

May 15, 2020 - 11:22 amVery Good news!!!! Now we

Very Good news!!!!

Now we need the different stakeholders to release the result of the negotiation with B tracks, we need to know when the tracks are reopening, dates any changes ect... for the remaining of 2020. This will get the trainers to plan and by the same time assure Mohawk will not overbooked once open.

We also need to get any changes to the future stake races, cancellations and OSS schedule, to plan ahead. I'm sure this was already discussed with all parties involved knowing this date was coming. Time to release.

Great to see our game back soon!

May 14, 2020 - 7:02 pmListening to Premier Ford’s

Cam McKnight SAID...

Listening to Premier Ford’s announcement today it sound like racing might be underway sooner rather than later.

While I have read (and viewed) many WEG comments from CEO Jim Lawson, there has not been much mention of tracks other than the WEG properties. As great as it will be to see WEG underway, there will still be a lot of horses on the shelf because they cannot compete at that level

I’m certain most of the SW Ontario’s smaller tracks (Clinton, Grand River, Hiawatha, Georgian, Hanover, etc) would like to operate their respective meets, but wondering how feasible it is given that most of the smaller tracks thrive on on-track attendance for betting/concessions.

Conversely London, Flamboro, and Mohawk have all been able to attract respectable betting with online only racing. These tracks also have paddocks that would allow for the best social distancing circumstances.

Others have probably heard these suggestions (or similar), but thought I would toss them out of as considerations.

A) WEG runs all races A & B plus stake races. Instead of 10 race cards, expand to a 15 race card (similar to many US tracks), with some type of split on A/B races. WEG could either split A/B races by card (ie 1-7 B, 8-15A) or split them by date (M,F,S - A horses, T,W,Th - B horses)

B) WEG carries on with A class races & stakes. All other tracks move their dates to London/Flamboro for the remainder of the year.

I’m sure there would be issues to work around for either of these suggestions, but trying to rescue racing for the rest of this year should take priority.

May 14, 2020 - 4:28 pmThe dominoes have begun to

Mike Mobley SAID...

The dominoes have begun to fall! In the last 24 hours, Indiana, then Ohio, and now Ontario have all announced plans to reopen for live racing. Florida will most likely be the next state to make an announcement - over 100 horses qualified at Pompano Park this morning.


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