03/30/2011 1:33PM

Woodbine: Opening-day card sees rise in entries

Michael Burns
The Woodbine main track opened for training on March 12.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Woodbine Racetrack will be a very busy place this weekend.

At approximately 6 p.m. Friday evening, a crowd of some 350 people will begin gathering indoors on the third floor of the grandstand for the 36th annual Sovereign Awards ceremony honoring the top performers in Canadian Thoroughbred racing and breeding.

Outside, Woodbine’s 18th annual winter Standardbred meeting will be continuing with an 11-race card starting at 7:30 p.m.

And on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m., Woodbine’s 56th annual Thoroughbred meeting will commence with a 10-race program that attracted 91 entries, compared to 86 for opening day last year.

“We had a record number of horses come in the very first day the backstretch opened the first week of February,” said Steve Lym,

Woodbine’s racing director and a director of racing for Woodbine Entertainment.

“It’s kind of leveled off since then, but the numbers are still good and the workouts have been strong all spring.

“I was expecting to do better on opening day than last year. I just hope it carries over to Sunday.”

As of Wednesday morning, when entries were taken for the first of 167 days at the first Thoroughbred meeting of the Canadian season, a total of 1,825 horses had taken up residence amongst the 2,170 stalls here at Woodbine.

Martin Velden, manager of backstretch operations, said that 1,820 horses were on the grounds at the same time last year.

The training track opened Feb. 25 and the main track on March 12. In the last five days alone, dating from last Saturday, more than 800 horses have recorded works over the main track.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s opening program will feature the second running of the $100,000 Debut, a five-furlong overnight stakes for Ontario-sired 4-year-olds and up. The Debut attracted a field of 11, including last year’s two-three finishers Don’s Folly and Paso Doble.
Racing will continue here Sunday and will be conducted on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule until Wednesdays are added on April 27. Thursday racing begins June 2.

The $150,000 Star Shoot, a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, is the first of 102 scheduled stakes at the meeting and will be run next Saturday.

◗ The Sovereign Awards ceremony will be streamed live, beginning at 8:30 p.m. at woodbineentertainment.com/sovereignawards.