“They’re at the post. They’re off.”
Track officials will be making that announcement for the first time this year on Saturday, when racing resumes at Georgian Downs racetrack.
But - like so many other professional sports, from hockey to football - there will be no-one watching in the stands.
The racetrack facility, with its tiered seating, restaurants, washrooms and betting kiosks, will remain closed to the public.
Only ‘horse people’ – owners, trainers, the drivers, racing officials, judges and track personnel – will be allowed into the barns and onto the track, where they will be required to follow COVID-19 protocols to ensure safety.
“Last week, training began at Georgian Downs, and all of the horse people in attendance were very co-operative, eager, and excited for racing in Ontario to resume,” said Chad Gates, General Manager of Ontario Racing Operations.
“Protocols have been put in place to ensure the safety of all parties,” he noted – including a requirement to wear mandatory face masks at all times, and restrictions limiting the number of horse people permitted to enter the backstretch with their horses.
“Passive screening questions and temperature checks will be given to each horse person requesting entry to Georgian Downs on all days,” Gates said. “Additional sanitizer and hand washing stations have been strategically placed in the paddock area and throughout the facility, directional signage and painted arrows on the paddock floor will assist with proper flow that will help us achieve our physical distancing goals.”
In addition to the human element, the backstretch and paddock area “will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected upon the completion of races each evening,” he noted – along with ongoing disinfecting of all “high touch” areas.
It’s all part of the effort to ensure a safe return to racing, for all concerned.
Racing will take place three days a week at Georgian Downs, with the standardbreds hitting the track on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:15 p.m., and Sundays at 6 p.m., during June, July and August.
“We will have a full evening of racing on June 6,” said Gates, reminding fans that although Georgian Downs is closed to the general public, “all of our races will be shown via live streaming video on our website – and wagering will be available through HPIBET (click here).”