06/02/2006 12:00AM

Surveillance program to debut at Plate


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine has introduced a new stakes race surveillance program, which will first be applied to the $1 million Queen's Plate on June 25.

Woodbine also plans to use the program for the July 23 Northern Dancer, Sept. 17 Woodbine Mile, and the Oct. 22 Canadian International and E.P. Taylor.

"The policy is to promote increased integrity, blood testing, surveillance - everything," said David Willmot, Woodbine's chairman and chief executive officer. "The [Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau] has what they call their 'big-race' team. They're at the Breeders' Cup, they're at the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont, and they'll be here. Our own security will be supplemented by them."

Under the terms of the program, which has been approved by the Ontario Racing Commission, trainers will have to notify Woodbine director of Thoroughbred racing Tom Cosgrove or stakes coordinator Julie Bell who they intend to enter at least 48 hours before closing time for entries. The trainers will have to provide their proposed entrant's name, plus its tattoo, barn, and stall numbers.

Unlike programs in other jurisdictions, which involve relocating horses to a special security barn, Woodbine's surveillance program will take place in the horse's regular stall.

The trainer of each horse will be responsible for designating those individuals who will be allowed access for feeding, grooming, training, and race-day preparation.

Treatments or medications administered by the trainer or his veterinarian must be documented and produced to security upon request. Also, a blood sample must be given upon request.

"There are going to be different approaches taken, in both breeds," said Willmot, indicating that Woodbine plans to implement a similar program for its Standardbred operations here and at Mohawk Raceway. "We've always had a commitment to integrity and a level playing field.

"With a lot of talk about EPO," he said, referring to the blood-enhancing agent erythropoietin, "and other things floating around these days, we're just going to make sure we're on top of it as much as we can be. It's difficult, and it's expensive, so obviously we can't do it all the time, but we're sure as heck going to do it on our most important races. It's preventative medicine."

Nick Coukos, executive director of the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said his group has no official position on the program, for one simple reason.

"We have not been consulted on this issue," said Coukos, on Friday afternoon.

"We do find it disappointing that neither [Woodbine Entertainment Group] nor the Ontario Racing Commission consulted with the horsemen prior to approving this program. I think there's a lot that needs to be discussed."

Entries for the Queen's Plate are due by 8:30 a.m. Thursday, June 22, meaning horsemen will have to notify the racing office of their intention to enter by 8:30 a.m. June 20 at the latest, according to Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president, Thoroughbred racing.

"It doesn't mean they have to enter," he said, "but if they haven't done that, they can't."

Coukos raised the issue of the negative impact the surveillance program may have on visiting horses.

"At first glance, I do have a concern with respect to horses that are shipping in from out of town," said Coukos. "Many don't ship in five days prior to a race, so we need to deal with that issue."

Horses based in the U.S. finished one-two in the Queen's Plate last year, with Wild Desert coming from Monmouth and King of Jazz from Churchill Downs. Wild Desert arrived at Woodbine late on the Wednesday afternoon before Sunday's running of the Queen's Plate. King of Jazz did not arrive until Friday morning.

Wanna Runner, based in California with Bob Baffert, and Unification, based in New York with Eoin Harty, could be key participants in the Queen's Plate this year.

Baffert, who sent out Wanna Runner to work six furlongs in 1:14.40 at Santa Anita on Thursday, was forced to change his travel plans after learning of the new Woodbine program. He had intended to fly in Wanna Runner from California a few days before the Queen's Plate. Now, Baffert will send Wanna Runner to New York next week along with Belmont Stakes candidate Bob and John and head to Woodbine from there.

"They messed my plans up," Baffert said. "We're going have to come in early. I've never heard of anything like that. Are they trying to make it hard on these shippers, or what?"