The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that Woodbine Racetrack in Rexdale, Ontario, near Toronto, has earned reaccreditation from the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.
Opened in 1956 bearing a name associated with racing in the area since 1874. The track opens its live Thoroughbred racing season Saturday with the unveiling of a new synthetic Tapeta racing surface. The 133-date meet – with racing Fridays to Sundays, Wednesday nights starting May 18, plus some holidays – runs through Dec. 4.
Meet highlights include the 157th running of Canada’s most famous horse race, the $1 million Queen’s Plate, on July 3; the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on June 12; the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the third leg in the Canadian Triple Crown, on August 21; the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1) and the $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf (G1) on Sept. 17; the $250,000 Natalma Stakes (G1) on September 18; and the $1 million Canadian International (G1) and $500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1) on Oct. 16.
The reaccreditation of Woodbine was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of an extensive written application and continued as the track hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. An on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing operations. Interviews were conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, veterinarians, stewards and regulators. The inspection team was comprised of Jim Gates, racetrack operations consultant, former general manager of Churchill Downs; Ron Jensen, DVM, veterinary and regulatory consultant, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant, past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators; and Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.
Alliance certification standards address an extensive list of safety and integrity concerns within six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication and testing; safety research; and wagering security.
“Everything that we do here is done with safety, integrity and transparency in mind,” said Woodbine Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Steve Lym. “Our hope and expectation is that if a trainer or owner is looking at coming here they can research our record, learn about all of our best practices and have confidence that Woodbine will do right by their horses. That information can help them make a decision to apply for stalls somewhere they haven’t been stabled before.”
Woodbine’s famed 1 1/2-mile E.P. Taylor Turf Course is to the outside of their newly installed Tapeta track, which replaces a Polytrack surface that was among the first synthetic tracks of any kind when introduced at Woodbine in 2006.
“My numerous personal experiences with Woodbine have been, over and over again, that the right way is the only way ever considered for moving forward,” said the NTRA’s Koch. “I think Woodbine’s multi-million dollar investment in a brand new surface is a bold continuation of that theme. And, their persistence in setting Best Practice examples in numerous sections of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Code of Standards further confirms that theme. Woodbine’s leadership in the areas of safety and integrity prove also that collaboration moves mountains. The Woodbine horsemen, regulators, jockeys and management in Ontario are ‘all in’ to make it happen and this attitude shows in their Best Practice outcomes.”
Woodbine received its initial accreditation in 2010. All accreditations and reaccreditations carry an effective period of two years.
Woodbine is one of 23 racing facilities fully accredited by the Alliance that together host 94 percent of Grade I stakes and attract more than 70 percent of North American pari-mutuel handle. The others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, Monmouth Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Sunland Park and Turfway Park.
The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance is a standing organization whose purpose is to establish standards and practices to promote safety and integrity in horseracing and to secure their implementation. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Lockton Insurance and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at NTRAalliance.com.