As a result of the government of Ontario's announcement Nov. 20 that Toronto will be entering the province's gray "lockdown" phase of coronavirus-related restrictions, Woodbine Entertainment announced that Nov. 22 will be the last day of Thoroughbred racing in the province this year.
The track was also forced to cancel the remainder of its Sunday card following the sixth race, losing the featured Grey Stakes (G3) and Mazarine Stakes (G3). For the safety of the horses, participants, and staff, races 7-13 were canceled as a result of the inclement weather in the Toronto area, including accumulating snow, forecasted fluctuating temperatures, and mixed precipitation.
"We have been, and continue to be, extremely supportive of the government's efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout our province and appreciate the many difficult decisions they have to make," said Jim Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment. "We have approached the government to explain the impacts this decision will have on our business and the horse racing industry in Ontario. With a better understanding of our operations and based on our safety record in operating live racing at our racetracks, we hope that the government will consider these impacts in the future and assist us in managing the potentially devastating impact to horse people and animal welfare this early shutdown will cause."
The canceled race cards (12) at Woodbine represented a significant opportunity for horse people to earn purse money that is critical for their livelihoods and the welfare of their horses as they enter the off-season for Thoroughbred racing in Ontario.
"Our organization's sole mandate is to sustain the horse racing industry that supports the livelihoods of 20,000 families throughout the province," Lawson said. "Woodbine Entertainment is the engine of that industry, and this early shutdown further impacts our business."
Woodbine Entertainment has approximately 1,300 employees either temporarily or permanently laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This shutdown of racing also negatively impacts the approximately 2,000 horse people on the Woodbine backstretch, putting many of them out of work.
The recent lockdown restrictions prohibit live racing although do allow for training to continue, however it is expected that training will be wound down this week.
"Since we started racing at Woodbine and Mohawk Park in early June, we have demonstrated that racing without spectators poses no greater health risk to participants than training," Lawson said. "We have been a leader in health and safety since the beginning of the pandemic, and we are extremely proud of our record and the cooperation of our racing participants in maintaining safe racing environments."