Jim Lawson

Portuondo Leaving Woodbine

Jason Portuondo, the longtime on-air simulcast host at Woodbine Entertainment, will be leaving the organization after the June 26 show. Portuondo, who has been with Woodbine since 2014, has accepted a role with the AGCO as a Racing Official. "Jason has been a big part of our racing product over the years and represented our brand, our sport, and our industry with professionalism, enthusiasm, and integrity," said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. "Although we will certainly miss Porty, it's comforting to know he will remain in our industry, and we...

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Hall of Fame Jockey Hugo Dittfach Passes Away

Canadian Hall of Fame jockey Hugo Dittfach passed away at the age of 85. A refugee from East Germany, Dittfach spent three years in a Russian concentration camp in Poland during World War II before emigrating to Canada. He began his riding career in 1956 and was a leading rider in Western Canada before relocating to Ontario. Dittfach won the 1961 Queen's Plate aboard 20-1 longshot Blue Light. The pair just edged the world's leading race-winning jockey Johnny Longden and race-favorite Just Don't Shove in one of the closest finishes...

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OLG Returns as Sponsor of Canadian Triple Crown

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) will partner with Woodbine Entertainment Group for the 2021 Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. OLG has been a long-time sponsor of the Triple Crown, encompassing the Queen's Plate at Woodbine, the Prince of Wales S. at Fort Erie and the Breeders' S. at Woodbine. "OLG's continued support of horse racing helps organizations like Woodbine bring the fast-paced action of horse racing to more Ontarians," said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. "With their support, we are able to enhance premier Thoroughbred racing events...

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Woodbine to Welcome Back Spectators July 1

Woodbine Racetrack will allow spectators--at 25% capacity in the grandstand and on the track apron--beginning on Canada Day, July 1. "We are thrilled to be able to open our doors on Canada Day and welcome back our owners and some spectators to the track who have been dearly missed," said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. "We have been operating live racing for a couple of weeks now, but it's just not the same with empty stands. We are thankful to the government for entrusting us to safely welcome back a...

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Sports Wagering Bill Heads to Royal Assent in Canada

The Senate of Canada passed Sports Betting Legislation (Bill C-218) at Third Reading debate on Tuesday. The Bill will now proceed to Royal Assent, the final milestone to legalize single event sports wagering in Canada. "This is a significant day for what is now an emerging sector in Canada that will regulate sports betting, generate new revenues and create new jobs," said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. "Congratulations to the Federal Government for taking this important step forward and creating a substantial opportunity for the Canadian economy." Bill C-218, which...

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Woodbine To Open June 12

With news that the province of Ontario has entered Step One of the 'Roadmap to Reopen' plan earlier than anticipated, officials at the Woodbine Entertainment Group have announced that Thoroughbred racing will return to the track this Saturday, June 12, with first post set for 1:20 p.m. ET. "While it has been a very frustrating period, I would like to thank the Government of Ontario for the recent attention it has given the horse racing industry," said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. "In particular, I would like to thank Premier...

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Stakes Schedule Released for Delayed Woodbine Meet

Woodbine has released a stakes schedule for its 2021 Thoroughbred meet, which has been delayed from its Apr. 17 scheduled opening due to COVID-19 restrictions in the province of Ontario. As it stands, the track is targeting a June 18 start date, with the possibility of opening sooner. The stakes program offers more than C$16.5 million in purses, including 39 graded events and two million-dollar races, the Queen's Plate--still on its original Aug. 22 date--and the Sept. 18 GI Ricoh Woodbine Mile, one of three "Win and You're" in races...

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Horse Racing Set to Return To Ontario

Edited Press Release The Government of Ontario announced a three-step 'Roadmap to Reopen' the economy plan Thursday based on decreased daily COVID-19 case counts, lower hospitalization rates, and the percentage of vaccinated residents. Live horse racing is included in Step One of that plan, which is estimated to begin Monday, June 14. Officials at Woodbine Entertainment have announced that the 2021 Standardbred season at Woodbine Mohawk Park will resume Monday, June 14, and then continue its regular five race days per week schedule (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday). The 2021...

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With Ontario Extending Stay-at-Home Order, Woodbine Opening Up in the Air

The Ontario government announced earlier this week that a province-wide COVID-19-related lockdown has been extended to at least May 20, dashing hopes that Woodbine will be able to open for business any time soon. The meet was supposed to begin Apr. 17. "There is a crisis right now in the Toronto area and we're right in the middle of it," said Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson. "They are running out of intensive care beds and the numbers are not going down. The good news is that more vaccines are coming in...

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Toronto-Area Lockdown Forces Woodbine Postponement

With a government-enforced 28-day lockdown set to take effect in the province of Ontario Thursday, Apr. 8 at 12:01 a.m., officials at Woodbine Racetrack announced late Wednesday that the planned opening of the 2021 meet would be delayed. Woodbine will continue to engage in dialogue with government officials and local health authorities in an effort to gain permission to operate a live meet during a lockdown situation in which they would try to begin operations once the stay-at-home order is lifted May 6. "This is very difficult news to share...

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COVID Lockdown Threatens Opening Day at Woodbine

The Ontario government has put in place new COVID-19 restrictions that will last a minium of four weeks and include a ban on horse racing. What is being called an "emergency brake" went into effect Saturday, putting the Apr. 17 opener at Woodbine in doubt. Its sister track, the harness facility Mohawk Park, was not able to run on Saturday and will be shut down indefinitely. There were 2,557 reported cases of COVID-19 Thursday in Ontario, the most in a single day since Jan. 22. While understanding the seriousness of...

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Due to COVID-19 Restrictions, Woodbine's Opening Day is in Jeopardy

With less than a month to go before the scheduled opener on Apr. 17, Woodbine is facing the distinct possibility that it will be unable to operate next month due to COVID-19 protocols in place in Ontario. Woodbine is in an area currently designated as a Grey Zone, where horse racing is among the activities that are not allowed. Last year, the track was forced to end its meet two weeks early because of the same restrictions now threatening the April opener. "I am really starting to get concerned," Woodbine...

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