Woodbine Entertainment CEO ‘cautiously optimistic’ 2021 thoroughbred season will open on time

One Bad Boy, second from right, ridden by jockey Flavien Prat, rides in the pack on his way to win the Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack, in Toronto on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Jim Lawson, chief operating officer of Woodbine Entertainment, is hopeful Woodbine's thoroughbred racing season will start on time but he's uncertain if the campaign will open April 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Jim Lawson isn’t giving up on Woodbine’s thoroughbred racing season starting on time.

On Thursday, the Ontario government announced the province will go into a four-week, provincewide shutdown Saturday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move will allow for horse training, but not live racing without spectators.

That’s not good news for Woodbine Entertainment.

Read more: Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with Ontario government

Harness racing will halt at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Campbellville, Ont., on Saturday and the April 17 start to the thoroughbred season faces being pushed back for a second straight year.

But Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, said in an update to horse people the thoroughbred opener could go ahead as scheduled with approval from Toronto Public Health.

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“In the coming days, we will continue to discuss our request with Toronto Public Health,” Lawson wrote. “As we head into the long weekend, I am cautiously optimistic about the situation.

Read more: Woodbine Entertainment asking Ontario to complete its 2020 racing schedule

“I do fully appreciate the need for a definitive answer so you can plan and prepare accordingly. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can do be able to start our season on time.”

Lawson has also spoken with Halton Region officials about harness racing..

“I had a conversation with the province (on Thursday morning) regarding our request to be permitted to safely operate live racing during the shutdown,” he said. “The province indicated its support for this request so long as the local health authority also approves.”

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