The origins of Woodbine racetrack actually date back to 1881, although the current track only opened in 1956.
Originally called ‘Woodbine Park’, the original venue closed in 1994, with all thoroughbred racing moved to the new Woodbine track. The old site was replaced by residential buildings.
Located at Rexdale Boulevard in Toronto, Woodbine stages regular thoroughbred racing as well as some Standardbred events. It is owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group and prides itself as the premier racetrack in Canada.
The track was used as the opening venue for the 1976 summer Paralympics, and it has more recently become the home to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
The track hosts a number of prestigious contests throughout the year, with Queens Plate and the Woodbine Mile amongst the most lucrative events on the calendar.
There are two different tracks currently in use at Woodbine racetrack, with the 1 ½ mile turf course regarded as one of the best tracks in North America. The tapeta track, which can host races of up to one mile, is more commonly used. Work got underway in 2018 to transform the inner oval course into a second turf track which is scheduled to open in time for the 2019 Queens Plate. The new turf track will be designed to drain quickly, allowing horse racing to take place on the grass in the majority of weather conditions.
Racing takes place from mid-April through to early-December. Weather conditions dictate that racing cannot take place during the early part of the year.
Woodbine has a rich history of hosting racing in Ontario, and although the current venue has only been operating since 1956, it has become a major player in Canadian racing.
The new track was opened on a 780-acre site and was a modern and spacious facility that was purpose-built for hosting major sporting events. At the beginning, there was just an oval dirt course, and a 7/8 mile turf course.
Just three years after opening, Queen Elizabeth II visited the track for the first time. Alongside the Duke of Edinburgh, she enjoyed the Queens Plate, a race which has thrown up a number of iconic moments throughout the years. In 1964, Northern Dancer, the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby returned to his homeland and won the race by over seven lengths.
The Woodbine crowd has also witnessed a number of high-quality competitors race at the track with Secretariat arguably the most notable visitor.
The track underwent a major refurbishment in 1994, with a 1-mile course for thoroughbred dirt runners and a 1-mile ½ turf course built alongside a harness racing track.
Racetrack lighting was also added to the course, and it opened to rave reviews from visitors.
Two years later, the track became the first venue outside of the United States to host the world-famous Breeders Cup Championship.
More recently, Woodbine has combined its thoroughbred racing operation with a new gaming and entertainment complex. The second-floor Grandstand has also become home to a number of restaurants and bars.
The synthetic track was added in 2006, with Woodbine becoming just the second track in North America to install the all-weather course. The synthetic surface has since been switched to tapeta.
Woodbine Known Track Bias
Most racetracks will have the tendency to give an advantage to horses with a particular running style. The racetrack could also favor horses drawn in a particular stall, and this is often related to the configuration of the track and various different trips.
Woodbine isn’t one of those tracks with an overwhelming bias, but there are certainly benefits to being drawn in particular post positions.
Generally, races over the seven furlongs on the synthetic surface tend to help horses drawn in the outside stalls, while there are more wire-to-wire winners in races held over six furlongs.
The spread of winners in races held over the distance are varied, and the statistics from the most recent meet suggest that there is no bias. Stall 4 was the best place to be drawn, producing 36% of winners. Very few of these races featured more than six runners.
Winning Post Positions
In Sprint events at Woodbine, 19% of winners came from stall 2. Although the inside draw is often favored by jockeys, just 12% of winners came from stall 1.
The remainder of the posts produced a fairly even spread:
PP1 – 12%
PP2 – 19%
PP3 – 13%
PP4 – 12%
PP5 – 14%
PP6 – 14%
PP7 – 12%
Interestingly, there were just 14 runners drawn in stall ten for sprint races (up to 20th May 2019), and none of them were victorious.
In distance races, stall four was the most profitable producing 36% of winners.
PP1 – 26%
PP2 – 5%
PP3 – 15%
PP4 – 36%
PP5 – 15%
Top Trainers at Woodbine
The majority of Canada’s top trainers will regularly send their runners to Woodbine. With the track hosting the majority of the country’s high-quality thoroughbred events, it is little surprise that it attracts a high caliber of horsemen.
Some trainers have a very high strike rate, with Mark Casse and Norman McKnight often battling it out for supremacy.
Top Trainers 2019:
- Josie Carroll (23% strike rate)
- Kevin Attard (27% strike rate)
- Mark Casse (31% strike rate)
- Norman McKnight (34% strike rate)
- Catherine Day Phillips (36% strike rate)
- Donald McCrae (38% strike rate)
- Top Jockeys at Woodbine
Horse performance can be greatly affected by the jockey on board, and some riders are adept at getting their horse into the perfect position.
Woodbine’s racetrack is fairly unique with the tapeta course requiring specialist knowledge from the riders. There is also a downward momentum on the turf course, and this can often result in inexperienced jockeys allowing their horses to go off too quickly.
Top Jockeys 2019:
- Rafael Manuel Hernandez (19% strike rate)
- Alan Garcia (20% strike rate)
- Jerome Lermyte (23% strike rate)
- Patrick Husbands (24% strike rate)
- Eurico Da Silva (30% strike rate)
Woodbine Racing Season and Key Races
The Woodbine racing season begins in mid-April and continues throughout the calendar year until mid-December. With racing taking place eight months of the year, there is always ample opportunity for a number of high-quality stakes events.
There is a plethora of races which are restricted to horses foaled in Canada including the Cup and Saucer Stakes and the Woodbine Oaks. Some races will only allow horses foaled in Ontario to compete, these include the Achievement Stakes and the Vandal Stakes.
Woodbine hosts a number of Grade I and Grade II events throughout the year.
Canadian International Stakes, E.P Taylor Stakes, Woodbine Mile, Northern Dancer Turf Stakes.
Autumn Stakes, Canadian Stakes, Connaught Cup Stakes, Dance Smartly Stakes, Highlander Stakes, King Edward Breeders’ Cup Stakes, Nassau Stakes, Nearctic Stakes, Nijinsky Stakes, Play the King Stakes, Sky Classic Stakes.
Bold Venture Stakes, Dominion Day Stakes, Eclipse Stakes, Durham Cup Stakes, Hendrie Stakes, Marine Stakes, Kennedy Road Stakes, Mazarine Stakes, Natalma Stakes, Ontario Derby, Ontario Fashion Stakes, Royal North Stakes, Seagram Cup Stakes, Seaway Stakes, Selene Stakes, Singspiel Stakes, Summer Stakes, Valedictory Stakes, Vigil Stakes, Whimsical Stakes.
Woodbine Racetrack Address
555 Rexdale Blvd,
M9W 5L2, Canada