Caribbean riders set for Woodbine after Ontario government eases restrictions

Patrick Husbands

Veteran Barbadian  rider Patrick Husbands and several other Caribbean riders will soon be back  in the saddle at  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 underway on April 15 last but was suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19 which has caused 83 000 infections and over 6 000 deaths across Canada.

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

“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.

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 against the spread of the virus.

Last week, however, some retailers along with seasonal businesses and health and community service providers were allowed to reopen, with authorities also sanctioning the return of “sport competitions conducted by a recognized national or provincial sport organization”.

“This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators, such as tennis, track and field and horse racing,” the Ontario government said.

The Woodbine season will run until December 13 and will feature a revised stakes programme.

Last season,Husbands, a seven-time Woodbine champion, finished fifth with 82 wins.

Fellow Barbadians Simon Husbands, Slade Callaghan, Keveh Nicholls, Juan Crawford, along with Guyana’s Sunny Singh and Jamaican Kirk Johnson, all featured in last season’s campaign.