The 2014 Canadian live Thoroughbred racing season will kick off April 12 at Woodbine with the first of 133 programs scheduled for the year.
Saturday's opening day 10-race card was drawn April 9 and features 87 horses. First race post time is set for 1 p.m. EDT. Woodbine's 2014 Thoroughbred season comes to a close Dec. 7.
The Woodbine meet offers 102 stakes races worth nearly $20 million in purses. The first stakes of the season is the $125,000 Jacques Cartier for older sprinters Sunday, April 13, on the Polytrack at six furlongs.
Woodbine's perennial leading jockeys and trainers will be in action on opening day. Luis Contreras, winner of consecutive Sovereign Awards and a finalist for 2013, has eight mounts, while Eurico Rosa da Silva, who won more stakes races (27) than any other rider at Woodbine last year, is named on seven rides. In 2013, Contreras was Woodbine's leading rider in wins (168) while da Silva, a 2010 Sovereign Award winner, led in purse earnings ($8,427,148).
Trainer Mark Casse, a five-time Sovereign Award winner, and, like Contreras and da Silva, a 2013 finalist, will send out two hopefuls on Saturday. Casse comes off a 2013 season when he won a Woodbine-leading 85 races and more than $5.4 million in purse earnings.
Patrick Husbands, a seven-time Sovereign Award recipient, has four mounts on the opening card. Emma-Jayne Wilson, winner of the Sovereign and Eclipse Awards in 2005 as North America's top apprentice, will debut on Sunday after fulfilling commitments in the United States, including a ride aboard the Reade Baker-trained Asserting Bear in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland on Saturday.
Making a full-time return to Woodbine is Chantal Sutherland-Kruse, the 2002 Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top apprentice, after three years competing at tracks in Ssouthern California. She's been named on four horses on the card.
Canada's most famous horse race, the $1 million Queen's Plate, will be staged July 6. The 1 1/4-mile classic for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds will be contested for the 155th consecutive time, making it the oldest continuously-run stakes race in North America.
The Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies, and the Plate Trial for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, both at 1 1/8 miles, are scheduled for June 15.
Other major stakes to be contested at Woodbine during the season include the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third leg in the Canadian Triple Crown, on Aug. 17 at 1 1/2 miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course; the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT), won the last two years by U.S. Horse of the Year Wise Dan, on Sep. 14; the $1 million Pattison Canadian International and the $500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes, also both grade I turf events, on Oct. 19.
First race post times for Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays throughout the year will be 1 p.m. EDT. Friday racing, also with a 1 p.m. first race post, begins April 18, while Wednesday night racing, beginning at 6:45 p.m. EDT, is slated to start May 28.
On the wagering front, Woodbine will continue to offer the horseplayer 20-cent Triactor, Pick 3, Pick 4, and Superfecta minimum bets. There's also a $100,000 guaranteed pool for the early Pick 4's each weekend. The 20-cent Jackpot Hi-5 (first five finishers in the day's last race), inaugurated last year, will continue to be attractive as a carryover, until only a single ticket wins the entire pot.