Horses training over the new Tapeta at Woodbine on April 6.

Horses training over the new Tapeta at Woodbine on April 6.

Michael Burns

Woodbine Kicks Off Thoroughbred Season Apr. 9

Opening day highlighted by Jacques Cartier Stakes.

The 2016 live Thoroughbred racing season kicks off April 9 at Woodbine, with the first two of 133 programs scheduled for the meet.

Saturday's card will feature the unveiling of Woodbine's brand new synthetic Tapeta main track, replacing the Polytrack that was installed in 2006.

The 10-race, opening-day card will be highlighted by the six-furlong, $125,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes on Tapeta for 4-year-olds and up.

First race post time is 1:00 p.m.

The Jacques Cartier drew a talented group of eight. The entrants include Stacked Deck, likely to be named Canada's champion sprinter at Friday's Sovereign Awards in a ceremony at Woodbine, and 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) champion Hootenanny.

Sunday's card features the $150,000 Whimsical Stakes (Can-III) for fillies, 4-year-olds and upwards, also at six furlongs over the Tapeta.

Woodbine's perennial leading jockeys and trainers will once again be in action. Last year's leading rider, Eurico Rosa da Silva, a two-time Sovereign Award recipient and 2015 finalist, has seven mounts on opening day.

Last year da Silva led all Woodbine riders in wins (201) and purse earnings ($9.76 million), and won 17 stakes.

Luis Contreras, a two-time Sovereign Award winner and a finalist for 2015, has seven mounts on Saturday, while eight-time Sovereign Award winner Patrick Husbands is named on five horses.

Alan Garcia, who committed to ride at Woodbine last year after many successful seasons in the United States, also returns for the 2016 meet. Garcia won 93 races at Woodbine in 2015, including 18 stakes scores. Garcia is named on two horses.

Emma-Jayne Wilson, who will partner Queen's Plate winter book favorite Shakhimat in the Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) on Friday's Keeneland curtain raiser, has four calls on Woodbine's opening day.

Trainer Mark Casse, a seven-time Sovereign Award winner and once again a 2015 finalist, sends out four horses on opening day.

Casse, recently inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, comes off a 2015 season in which he won a Woodbine-leading 80 races and $6.2 million in purse earnings.

In September, Casse captured the Natalma Stakes (Can-IIT) with Catch a Glimpse and the budding star went on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT).

Catch a Glimpse will be among the favorites in the race to be named Canada's Horse of the Year at Friday's Sovereign Awards.

Among other featured races during the meet will be the $1 million Queen's Plate July 3, the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, and the $150,000 Plate Trial.

The Queen's Plate, Canada's most famous race, is a 1 1/4-mile classic for Canadian-bred three-year-olds. It will be run this year for the 157th time, making it the oldest continuously-run stakes race in North America.

The Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, is for Canadian-foaled three-year-old fillies, and the Plate Trial is for Canadian-bred three-year-olds. Both races will be run at 1 1/8 miles June 12.

Other major races at Woodbine this season include the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third leg in the Canadian Triple Crown, Aug. 21 at 1 1/2 miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course; the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT); and the Northern Dancer Turf (Can-IT) Sept. 17.

Woodbine will also present the Natalma Stakes Sept. 18, and the $1 million Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) and the $500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) Oct. 16.

First race post times for Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays throughout the year will be 1:00 p.m. Friday racing, also with a 1:00 p.m. first-race post, begins April 22, while Wednesday night racing, beginning at 6:45 p.m., is slated to start May 18.

Woodbine's 2016 Thoroughbred season comes to a close Dec. 4.