Woodbine Racetrack (Toronto, CANADA)
(Racing Dates: 04/18/2020 - 12/13/2020)
Woodbine Racetrack is a racetrack for thoroughbred horse racing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group, Woodbine Racetrack manages and hosts Canada's most famous race, The Queen's Plate. The track was opened in 1956. It has been extensively remodeled since 1993, and since 1994 has had three racecourses.
The current Woodbine carries the name originally used by a racetrack which operated in east Toronto, at Queen Street East and Kingston Road, from 1874 through 1993. (While the Old Woodbine Race Course was at the south end of Woodbine Avenue, the current Woodbine is nowhere near it.)
In 1951, it was operated by the Ontario Jockey Club (OJC) and held the prestigious King's Plate, but competed with several other racetracks in Ontario and was in need of modernization.
During the 1950s, the OJC, under the leadership of Canadian industrialist and horse breeder E. P. Taylor began a program of racetrack acquisitions aimed at becoming the biggest and most profitable operator in Ontario horse racing, similar to Taylor's earlier acquisitions and consolidations in the Canadian brewing industry.
In 1952, the OJC purchased and closed the money-losing Thorncliffe Park, purchased and closed the Hamilton Racetrack, and purchased the Fort Erie Racetrack for CA$780,000. Renovations began immediately at Fort Erie and at Woodbine, financed by a public offering of stock for CA$2 million. In 1953, the OJC bought Stamford Park in Belleville. It was closed and redeveloped.
In 1955, Taylor himself purchased the competing Orpen-owned Dufferin Park Racetrack and Long Branch Racetracks for CA$4 million ($37.8 million in 2018 dollars).
The Orpen tracks were closed and redeveloped and the Orpen race charters transferred to the OJC. The OJC continued the Canadian International and Cup and Saucer stakes races that had been held at the Orpen tracks. The racing charters acquired from the other tracks enabled the OJC to run 196 days of racing, more than double its allowed total of 84 days in 1952.
All of the efforts at racetrack acquisitions and closures were designed to support a new "supertrack". In 1952, the OJC identified the new location of the racetrack at Highway 27 east of the Toronto airport and bought over 400 acres (160 ha).
The architect chosen was Earle C. Morgan. Although Morgan had not designed a racetrack, he spent the next two years developing the design in conjunction with Arthur Froelich who had designed Hollywood Park Racetrack and Garden State Park Racetrack in the United States.
The new track was designed to hold 40,000 spectators, have ample parking, three race courses and two training tracks. It had stable space for 1,000 horses and rooms for 700 employees. The grandstand, designed to get as many people as close to the finish line as possible, included several restaurants and cafeterias. Construction on the new supertrack began in 1955.
The new racetrack opened on June 12, 1956, built at a cost of CA$13 million ($121 million in 2018 dollars). It was initially known as the New Woodbine Racetrack. It dropped the "New" in 1963.
The old track was converted to a combined thoroughbred and standardbred track known thereafter as Old Woodbine or, for most of the rest of its history, as Greenwood Raceway (during standardbred meets) and Greenwood Race Track (during thoroughbred meets).
The two thoroughbred and two standardbred meets conducted at Greenwood were transferred to the new Woodbine in 1994, which was until then exclusively devoted to thoroughbred racing. On July 4, 2010 Queen Elizabeth II visited the Racetrack as part of her state visit to Canada, viewing the 151st running of The Queen's Plate Stakes, as well as taking part in the presentation of trophies.
The track was the opening venue for the 1976 Summer Paralympics. The Breeders' Cup was held at Woodbine in 1996. The Arlington Million was held at Woodbine in 1988.
The Woodbine facility is also home to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
In 2018, the track began using a GPS-based timing system.
The outermost E. P. Taylor turf course for thoroughbreds, completed in 1994, is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long with a chute allowing races of 1.125 miles (1.811 km) to be run around one turn. It is irregularly shaped, the clubhouse turn departing from the traditional North American oval, and the backstretch is from 2.5 feet (76 cm) to 3 feet (91 cm) higher than the homestretch.
The Taylor turf course and the main dirt course at Belmont Park on New York's Long Island are the only mile-and-a-half layouts in North American thoroughbred racing. In 2016, Woodbine will contest up to 40 turf races running clockwise (right-hand turns) in what are being billed as "EuroTurf" races.
Inside the Taylor course is the 1 mile (1.6 km) synthetic course for Thoroughbreds. As of 2016, the surface is Tapeta; it was Polytrack between 2006 and 2015, and a natural dirt surface prior to that. Two chutes facilitate races at seven furlongs [.875 miles (1.408 km)] and at 1.25 miles (2.01 km).
The innermost oval was originally a 7/8-mile [.875 miles (1.408 km)] grass oval until the E. P. Taylor turf course opened in 1994. It was then converted to a crushed limestone dirt course and was used for harness racing until April 2018.
It was then converted back to a second turf course for the 2019 thoroughbred racing season. The first race on the new Inner Turf was run on June 28, 2019 and was won by Bold Rally with Eurico Rosa da Silva aboard.
Portions of the current E. P. Taylor turf course (the backstretch and far turn) originally formed part of a long turf chute that crossed over the dirt course to the inner turf oval at the top of the stretch. This was used for several major races, including Secretariat's final race in the 1973 Canadian International, until the entire E. P. Taylor course was completed in 1994.
Woodbine has been a regular host for the Breeders Crown. Since the event changed to a one-night format in 2010, the facility has hosted three times—2011, 2012, and 2015.
Woodbine was also the host of the CA$1,500,000 North America Cup for three-year old pacing colts and geldings from 1994–2006. That race along with the Elegant Image Stakes for three-year old filly trotters and the Good Times Stakes for three-year old colt and gelding trotters, have been moved to Woodbine's sister track, Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Starting in 2018, all standardbred racing has been moved to Woodbine Mohawk, as the 7/8 standardbred track is being converted into a 2nd turf course.
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