Caribbean riders set for Woodbine after government eases restrictions

Patrick Husbands

Veteran Barbadian jockey Patrick Husbands, his brother Cybert, and several other Caribbean riders will soon be back at the Woodbine racetrack  in Toronto, after the Ontario government last week sanctioned the return of horse racing as part of stage one of its reopening measures.

The season here was scheduled to get under way on April 15 but was suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19 which has caused  more than 6,000 deaths across the country

Woodbine officials have earmarked  Saturday June 6 for the start of the new thoroughbred season which will see strict social-distancing measures being enforced.

The 2020 stakes program includes $13.8 million in purses across 75 stakes and features The Queen’s Plate (Saturday, September 12) and the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Saturday, September 19) scheduled on back-to-back weekends for the first time in Woodbine’s storied history.

Michael Burns photo

“This is great news for the sport of horse racing and the tens of thousands of people it employs throughout the province,” said Woodbine’s chief executive Jim Lawson.

“With this news, our plans to resume standardbred racing at Mohawk Park on June 5 and thoroughbred racing on 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,” he added.

The Ontario government had declared a state of emergency in March, subsequently ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses and outdoor recreational activities to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Patrick Husbands is a seven-time Woodbine champion,Last season, he finished fifth with 82 wins and nearly four million dollars in winnings.