Woodbine Entertainment CEO puts tentative June 5 start to '21 thoroughbred campaign

TORONTO — Woodbine Entertainment is targeting June 5 as a potential opening day for its 2021 thoroughbred season.

The campaign was slated to begin April 17 but was postponed indefinitely due to Ontario's lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The province is scheduled to end its stay-at-home order May 20 but the expectation is that will be extended into June to prevent a fourth wave of the novel coronavirus.

All outdoor sports are banned under the stay-at-home order.

Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson told Woodbine's horse people of the tentative starting date "for preparation purposes only" in an email Wednesday. He said Woodbine plans to release its first condition book and revised stakes schedule 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."

Woodbine held a series of COVID-19 vaccine clinics last week.

"We estimate that the first dose vaccination rate of essential frontline horse people is approximately 75 per cent," he said. "This is a solid start, but we need to try to get that rate as close to 100 per cent as possible and preferably before May 31, as previously communicated."

Lawson admitted he's grown weary of continually offering Woodbine officials hope regarding the staging of a '21 thoroughbred meet.

"I would like nothing more than to be provide you with the certainty you require and deserve," he wrote. "However, right now we need to remain patient while knowing that we continue to do everything we can to resume live racing in Ontario as soon as possible. "

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

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