The return of live horse racing in Ontario just got one step closer.
The Ontario government announced a framework May 14 to gradually reopen the province in stages in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Stage 1, which is scheduled to begin May 19, allows for horse racing without spectators, with physical distancing measures in place.
"This is great news for the sport of horse racing and the tens of thousands of people it employs throughout the province," said Jim Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment. "With this news, our plans to resume Standardbred racing at Mohawk Park June 5 and Thoroughbred racing June 6 at Woodbine remain on track. We appreciate the government's recognition that we can operate spectator-free horse racing safely by following strict physical distancing protocols.
"I would also like to thank the entire horse racing community for their patience, understanding, and commitment in following health guidelines during this time. In doing so, it has put the entire industry in the position to resume live horse racing in the coming weeks."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, harness racing at Mohawk Park was suspended March 19, and the opening of Woodbine's Thoroughbred season, originally scheduled for April 18, was postponed. Woodbine has strict protocols in place to protect its backside population and plans to expand those protocols to the frontside in order to safely conduct live racing.