Live harness races in Ontario have been suspended once more as the provincial government has recently implemented a new stay-at-home order. There is growing concern among industry officials that the sport may be in grave danger as it was announced on April 16, 2021, that additional two weeks will be added to the current lockdown.
Live racing season in the province was relaunched back in February and it did not take long to suspend it again. The lack of live harness races has been the reason for many horsepeople to relocated to Canada’s southern neighbor of the U.S.A as races there continue. Additionally, the live harness’ future remains in mystery as it is unclear whether races will continue when the order is lifted.
Rideau Carleton Raceway has given its position on the current difficult situation as a track announcer and horseman John MacMillan has recently given an interview. In his words, the government states that it is together with the industry in this, but he believes that it is far from the truth. According to him, the statement from the government has been largely infuriating as the situation in the track is far from ideal.
Racing manager of the track Peter Andrusek stated that the return of the industry to the normal will be extremely difficult as the track has worked really hard on building a fan and horsepeople base. Additionally, he added that the migration of horses will cause a drop in the quality of the live racing program when it eventually resumes in the future.
Anthony MacDonald an Ontario-based trainer has decided to relocate to the U.S. for the next four months. Mr. MacDonald who is the founder of TheStable.ca has moved his base to Northfield Park, in close proximity to Cleveland. He said that the situation is tough for everyone as many people have become unemployed due to the unprecedented situation’s restrictions.
Currently, half of the 126 horses he has been in Ohio, as he said that the industry has already proven that it can hold live events in a safe manner. Mr. MacDonald stated that he is finding it difficult to fathom how live harness races are put on hold as there have been no outbreaks in the industry and other sports that had outbreaks such as hockey, baseball, and basketball are allowed to operate.
Woodbine Entertainment has also voiced its discontent about the recently canceled horse races in Ontario. The company has sent of formal letter to the mayor of Milton Gordon Krantz, in order to discuss the future of the industry and its importance to the province. The horse racing operators are worried that the current lockdown could have a devasting effect on the industry’s wellbeing in the long run.
After the news of the lockdown order, Woodbine Entertainment had to close down facilities in the province. Woodbine Mohawk Park has shut down training activities, and the Woodbine Race Track in Etobicoke has also switched to a non-operating status. It remains unknown when both facilities will be able to reopen doors.
Source: “Shutdown Poses Major Implications“, Standardbred Canada, April 18, 2021