To all Ontario Horsepeople,
Late last week, the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 Task Force inspected the Woodbine backstretch. Not only did we pass the inspection, we were complimented for the protocols we have put in place. This is a result of a lot of hard work and cooperation by Woodbine Entertainment staff, the HBPA and all the horsepeople accessing the backstretch. It truly has been a team effort. Thank you. But let’s make sure we keep this up. It’s important for everyone to understand that we are still following the Provincial Declaration of Emergency which was extended this morning to May 19.
For this week’s update here are a couple of key points I’d like to highlight:
Resumption of Live Racing:
We are still optimistic for the resumption of live racing in June. We continue to meet with the AGCO with respect to amendments to the Rules of Racing necessary to permit the resumption of live racing in the Province as quickly as possible.
Once a re-opening date has been determined, Ontario Racing will work with the tracks throughout the Province to determine any necessary changes to the race date calendar, including the OSS schedule. The criteria books will be updated as required and distributed shortly thereafter.
Condition Sheets for Woodbine Mohawk Park will also be released once a re-opening date has been determined. More on this below.
We are also working on the first Condition Book for Thoroughbred racing at Woodbine Racetrack. We are targeting to distribute it by May 16 along with a revised Stakes Schedule (subject to the lifting or easing of restrictions under the Provincial Declaration of Emergency which will allow us to proceed).
As part of the resumption of live racing, all tracks will be required to provide Racing Re-Start protocols to Ontario Racing in order to establish and confirm their readiness to resume live racing without spectators and following strict protocols that meet the requirements of the Government and public health officials.
Woodbine Mohawk Park:
Our key racing team members returned to work earlier this week and are preparing the qualifying schedule along with the first conditions sheets. We are working closely with COSA and the AGCO to determine the approach to qualifiers and will have confirmation of the plan soon.
A revised Standardbred Stakes schedule will be announced shortly, including the new date for the Pepsi North America Cup and the undercard Stakes. We are pleased to confirm that the April 15 Stakes sustaining payments that were suspended last month, will not be due at any time. With the hopes of resuming racing in June, the May 15 nomination and sustaining stake payments will proceed, along with the June 1st final installment for the Mohawk Million slots.
Updated safety protocols have been developed and will be in full force to keep our horsepeople safe and socially distanced in the race paddock, when we resume qualifying and racing.
Timed Workouts at Woodbine:
We will be commencing timed workouts in the near term at Woodbine to help us prepare for the opening of the season. This will allow us to meet the requirements of the AGCO to have timed workouts prior to the resumption of racing.
As timed workouts commence, jockeys would be permitted to access the backstretch and participate in the workouts under very strict protocols.
Here are a few of the protocols being implemented:
- Jockeys will meet their horses outside at the end of the shedrow and have minimal contact with Trainers and Grooms;
- Grooms and jockeys must always wear masks except when the rider is breezing a horse;
- Masks will be mandatory for all backstretch participants as of May 13. No mask, no entry;
- The HBPA has distributed a cloth mask to every backstretch worker. The East Gate Security has inventory for new/returning staff.
Trainers are responsible for their team’s adherence to this policy which is intended to keep everyone safe. Masks limit the spread from people who may be asymptomatic. The temperature checks have been an important protocol that has been effective, but we need to do everything we can to avoid an outbreak on our backstretch.
Ontario Racing Purse Allocation Program:
Ontario Racing continues to process the applications received for the re-allocation of purse funds program. They expect to start mailing out cheques by the end of this week for the month of April. Any trainer whose April fees are not paid by May 21 should contact Ontario Racing. In this event, the May cheque for the applicable owner will be withheld. A list of eligible horses will be posted on the Ontario Racing website as soon as possible.
Over the past week, we have continued to have positive discussions with relevant government agencies regarding our plans to resume live racing in Ontario in June. I look forward to speaking to you next week during our Stronger Together video conference scheduled for Tuesday, May 12 at 2 p.m. As previously mentioned, hopefully we will be able to share some positive news on the return of live racing.
Thank you and be safe,
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