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Coronavirus: Live horse racing is about to officially return to Ontario

One Bad Boy, right, ridden by jockey Flavien Prat, runs the 160th Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack, in Toronto on Saturday, June 29, 2019.
One Bad Boy, right, ridden by jockey Flavien Prat, runs the 160th Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack, in Toronto on Saturday, June 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Woodbine Entertainment made the announcement Monday that it will resume live horse racing this weekend.

That means harness racing will resume Friday at Woodbine Mohawk Park, with thoroughbred racing beginning Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack.

Racing at both venues will go without spectators and only essential personnel. Each track has implemented strict health-and-safety protocols.

READ MORE: Woodbine Racetrack looking to restart horse racing in June

“The horse-racing industry supports tens of thousands of jobs throughout our province, making the return of live racing this weekend very meaningful for many people,” Jim Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, said in a statement.

“We have spent a significant amount of time and resources developing and implementing physical distancing protocols to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

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“While we take great pride in being the first pro sport back competing in Canada, we also recognize that comes with a big responsibility. We are absolutely committed to operating our live racing with safety as the highest priority.”

Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs became the first track in Canada to offer live thoroughbred racing last week.

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Harness racing continued during the winter at Mohawk Park before being suspended March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the outbreak forced the start of the thoroughbred campaign to be delayed.

Woodbine Entertainment also announced it has launched Dark Horse, a new app that provides users with insights and strategies to help make smarter bets. It also allows users to stream races for immediate action and participants can either play for free or bet with real money.

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“Dark Horse is the perfect horse racing betting app for any sports bettor who is looking for some action,” said Chris Lush, Woodbine Entertainment’s senior vice-president, IT, wagering and distribution.

READ MORE: Woodbine Entertainment among organizations that want historical horse racing legalized

“The app was created with the sports bettor in mind and uses a simplified user experience and artificial intelligence to make it easy for new players to engage with the sport of horse racing.”

Dark Horse is now available in the Apple App Store. It’s currently being launched in Canada and is currently available in B.C., New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.