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Opening Day at Woodbine

The dormant willows in the paddock form a backdrop to a soggy, muddy day at Woodbine. Only a week ago, all this was under a foot of snow!

Dateline: 03/22/03

Saturday March 22nd marked Opening Day of Woodbine's 48th Thoroughbred season, a 167-day meet that runs until November 30. Some minor renovations were undertaken during the off-season, including new wooden panelling replacing concrete and drywall in the indoor saddling enclosure, and a new pond on the far turn to facilitate storm-water runoff from the stable


The new winner's circle under construction at the finish line. There had been a winner's circle there for the Breeders' Cup in 1996, but had been gone since then.
area. The apron winner's circle, originally built for the 1996 Breeders' Cup but which had been covered over, has been brought back for this season. It will start being used as soon as the turf course opens, although the infield winner's circle will continue to be used for stakes races. Photographs depicting racing scenes now grace the facing of the third floor grandstand, replacing the plain blue paint that had been there in past years.

On the backstretch, sprinklers were installed in the barns in response to the tragic fire last August that levelled Barns 7 and 7A and claimed the lives of 32 horses. Finally, the barns themselves are being renovated, widening the shedrows and installing new wash bays. For the future, a new turf sprinting chute is being considered in order to accommodate distances of 5, 5 1/2, and 6 furlongs which currently involve a short run to the turn. This chute would extend perpendicular to the home stretch off the far turn, with fields having to negotiate an easy 90-degree left turn.


Canadian Horse of the Year for 2002, Wake at Noon, was making his first start of the year in the Briartic Stakes on opening day.
In 2003, Woodbine will offer some 100 stakes races for $19 million in purses, including such important races as the Labatt Woodbine Oaks (June 8), Queen's Plate (June 22), Breeders' Stakes (August 9), Atto Mile (September 14), and the Canadian International (October 19). Racing is conducted Friday to Sunday with first race post-time at 12:55 p.m, Wednesdays beginning May 7, post-time 6:45 p.m, Thursdays beginning June 5 (except July 3, August 7, September 4 and October 16), post-time 12:55 p.m, and holiday Mondays May 19, June 30, August 4, September 1, October 13, post time 12:55 p.m.

Opening day race conditions were less than ideal, with a track rendered muddy by recent rains and melting snow after an unusually harsh winter. (Turf racing does not return until late May) In the feature race, the $100,000 5 furlong Briartic Handicap, defending Canadian Horse of the Year Wake At Noon made his first start of the year against his usual nemeses Krz Ruckus,


Krz Ruckus was a mild upset winner in a muddy Briartic Stakes on opening day.
track record-holder Olympian, and Rare Friends. Respecting his championship, he was sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 8. However, a poor start and the shorter distance of the race took their toll on the champ. Krz Ruckus and Olympian hooked up early, battling for front-end honours. It was 3-1 third choice Krz Ruckus who seized a narrow advantage along the rail, reaching the opening quarter-mile in a swift 21.52 and a half in 44.38. The speed battle ensued around the far turn, as the duo distanced themselves from the field, setting up a spirited duel to the finish. At the wire, Krz Ruckus triumphed by a length over the stubborn Olympian, in a time of 57.25. Wake At Noon was back in sixth early, and clearly wanting more distance, came on late but had too much to do down the stretch and finished fourth, 2 1/4 lengths in arrears.

Woodbine also is gearing up for the Queen's Plate Fantasy Challenge. Similar to Churchill Downs' Road to the Roses contest, entrants choose a stable of ten horses and score points based on results and the top scorers can win prizes. The contest is free to enter at http://www.woodbineentertainment.com/fantasy/ and there are lots of nice prizes. Contest scoring will begin on March 30th, so get your stable selected now.

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