Woodbine Community Rallies Together To Keep Horses in Training

Strict measures and awareness working at the barn area at Woodbine racetrack as everyone in the Thoroughbred industry hopes for opening day.

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Santino DiPaola photo

By: Jennifer Morrison |

Horsepeople on the Woodbine backstretch are banding together to protect their livelihood as training for the 2020 racing season continues.

As can be seen by Woodbine’s continued updates to its horsepeople (below), track management and the HBPA are doing everything to keep measures strict and in turn, convince government that the “best place for Ontario’s racehorses” is the Woodbine backstretch. The horses keep their people employed.

From all reports from provincial medical experts, it is possible as COVID-19 testing and results catch up to an early delay, that numbers of people testing positive will spike in the coming days. A mass exodus of people returning from March break this week, plus horsepeople filtering back from the US, will have to be carefully managed.

It is the SPREAD of the virus that is front and centre. People could harbour it and never have symptoms but pass it on unknowingly by going out in public.

JIM LAWSON will be on a FACEBOOK livestream Q and A on the Central Ontario Standardbred Association page at 4 p.m. today – (Sunday Mar. 22).


Trainer Santino DiPaola made signs for his Woodbine barn to keep his horses and people distanced – Santino DiPaola photo








Woodbine Operations emails:

Our intention is to keep the Woodbine backstretch open indefinitely for training and we are currently planning on opening the season on time (April 18). However, even with restricted access and safety measures in place, if COVID-19 is found in a critical part of the backstretch it would likely lead to a shutdown of active training.

We believe that with the safety measures in place, including the self-isolation requirements imposed, the Woodbine backstretch is the best place for your horses. We have made this point clear to the government. To date, there has been no sign of COVID-19 at Woodbine.

In addition to a spread of COVID-19 in the backstretch, there is significant public and government pressure not to race, and we may have to carefully consider the ramifications of moving forward. We adamantly share the public’s and government’s concern and the safety of everyone involved is our priority. Please know that while times like these are unprecedented, Canadians are a kind, understanding people who would not want to see harm come to our community.

Unfortunately, at this time, any firmer position on the start of the Thoroughbred racing season is not available. Please be assured that any decision impacting the start date will not impact the Woodbine’s ability to provide space for horses to be cared for.

As this pandemic evolves daily, we are following the Government guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to people on the backstretch at Woodbine. We must each do everything we can to limit the risk, so that we can continue operations. If you are returning from the U.S. or another country, please understand the following:

You must self-isolate for 14 days at home or off-site accommodation

Upon arrival in Ontario, we ask that you call Robert Jordan – Senior Manager Security at 416-675-3993 ext. 12532 so that a record may be added to the Security Self Isolation Form. You must then keep, for our records, a boarding pass or slip from the border that shows your return date to Canada. Security will give you a return date to Woodbine on Day 15 from your date of entry to Canada. You will be asked to show this as proof once able to access Woodbine backstretch. If you do not reach us, please leave a message and you will receive a phone call back as early as possible.

Individuals in self-isolation will NOT be permitted to come onto our backstretch to provide care for their horses until the 14-day self-isolation period is completed.

  • Your horses will be permitted on the backstretch, but must be under the care of a Canadian-based staff or those that have already completed the 14 day isolation period.
  • The horses will still be allowed to train under the care of the staff listed above.
  • Horses are not required to be isolated: horses coming from the U.S. can return to their “regular” barns as they are completely under the care of locally based grooms, assistant trainers, exercise riders, etc.
  • “Locally based” people are those who have not traveled outside Canada or have already completed a 14-day self-isolation period.
  • Dormitory residents will NOT be permitted to return to the dorms until the 14-day isolation period is complete and have passed the health screening test at the East Stable Gate. Please help make alternate accommodation arrangements for your staff to complete the 14 day isolation period.

We recognize that horses require essential care and arrangements must be made accordingly for this 14-day period. We have implemented these rules to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and continue our training operations during these difficult times; however, we need everyone’s cooperation. There is an onus on each individual to self-police and respect the rules above for the well-being of the entire Thoroughbred community on the Woodbine backstretch.

Should you be in a situation where you do not have adequate staff that are not in self-isolation, you may have to consider sending some of your team home ahead of the others. HBPA can assist in finding ‘helping hands’ here on the ground in Canada for this short time period.


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