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Weighing In On Mohawk Racing

Published: March 19, 2020 11:27 am ET

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Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson, O’Brien Award winning driver Doug McNair, and reinsman Bob McClure, winner of the 2019 Hambletonian, have each offered comments in regard to Woodbine Mohawk Park currently racing through the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Woodbine Mohawk Park is still racing through the pandemic, to this point. The facility is closed to the public and strict procedures have been implemented. The Campbellville track is doing everything it possibly can to ensure a safe environment for racing to be conducted.

"We've spoken to government officials about Mohawk regarding what we're doing," Lawson has told Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press. "We're changing post times as of Friday night to spread out the races.

"We don't want any more than 50 people in the paddock, probably 40 people. We're going to start to use more of the new portion of the paddock to make sure there's more social distancing.

"We're (continuing to race) for horsepeople more than anything. But we won't hesitate to close down if what I'd call the very strict policies and protocols we have in place aren't working and this thing gets beyond us."

Lawson stated that, as a corporation, Woodbine Entertainment’s only mandate is to support horse racing. He went on to say, “and that's what we're doing as best we can.”

‘Support’ is the key term, according to Bob McClure, who thrust himself onto the international stage last summer when he won the heralded Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack with the Ontario-sired Forbidden Trade.

Speaking in regard to the demographics of the provincial racing industry, McClure stressed the importance of racing to the daily lives of thousands upon thousands of Ontarians.

"The biggest fear I have for this whole thing is there's a large majority of this industry that's still living paycheque to paycheque," McClure told Ralph. "And I don't know how they're going to be able to weather this storm if we have to shut down racing.

"I think owners, all of a sudden, are expected to pay the bills without any money coming in. That's more than I'd want asked of me. Trainers having to pay grooms when they're not racing either. The money stops at the top and at some point it's the people at the bottom who need it the most. I really worry about that because there are people who simply can't take weeks off work."

Canada’s 2017 driver of the year, Doug McNair, has also commented on the situation. Prior to having spoken with Ralph, McNair had made headlines with his efforts to spearhead support for the Canadian Red Cross.

In speaking about racing at Mohawk under the imposed procedures, McNair said, “it's definitely different. You look over (to grandstand) and everything is dark. People might say there's no crowds there, especially in the winter, but even if there's 50 to 100 people at Mohawk, it's a lot different having none... and the casino is empty as well."

Maybe during times such as these, it’s best to try to focus on some of the silver linings. McNair has surely pointed out at least one of them.

"When you go (to Mohawk), it's funny, you don't see any traffic," he said. "It's absurd, definitely, it's different.

"We're really lucky just to be racing, but things change day today, hour to hour. I just hope it continues."

(With files from CP)

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