Woodbine Imposes Stiff Rules on Shippers to Major Stakes

David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment Group, prides himself on protecting customers at his racetrack, and in June he implemented a new rule regarding shippers for major races at the Toronto track.

Horses that were pointed to the June 25 Queen's Plate and those intending to ship for the Atto Mile (Can-I) and Pattison Canadian International (Can-1) are required to ship into Woodbine 48 hours before entries close for the races.

Each horse arriving on the grounds will be strictly supervised by an assigned security guard who may accompany each one to and from the track for training. Those allowed access to the horses for feeding, grooming, and any medical treatments will be only those approved by security and everything will be documented. Any horse could have its blood tested at any time.

Willmot cites the arrests in New Jersey in March of Standardbred driver Eric Ledford and four associates over allegations of blood doping with erythropoietin (EPO) plus last year's controversial victory by Wild Desert in the Queen's Plate as reasons for the new rule.

Wild Desert invaded Woodbine for the Plate with a light workout pattern that raised eyebrows of handicappers. The colt won the Plate at just over 3-1 odds, down from 6-1 in his morning line odds.

"I wouldn't suggest that there was any wrongdoing with prohibited drugs or non-therapeutic substances (in Wild Desert's case)," Willmot told the Globe and Mail. "What bothered me was the appearance that they had some hidden workouts. And our Queen's Plate looked to the public as if it was just a betting coup for the connections of the horse...We're not pleased with it."

The new rule affected Mike Pegram's Wanna Runner, who shipped into Woodbine on June 15 for the Plate and Chiefswood Stable's Pipers Thunder, who trains at the farm in Loretto, Ontario.

Pegram told the Globe that he changed shipping plans for the gelding when he found out about the rule, electing to send the horse even earlier rather than on the required 48 hours notice.

"We play by the rules," said Pegram. "If that's what they want us to do, that's what we'll do."