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Horse Welfare at Woodbine Racetrack

The safety and well-being of horses who race at Woodbine Racetrack is the top priority each and every day. Woodbine abides by strict protocols and works with passionate industry experts to ensure the excellent care of our equine athletes.


Horses are inspected by the commission veterinarian on the morning of a race day and continue to be monitored until they enter the gate for their race.

Horses deemed not fit to race through veterinarian examination and trainer observation are scratched from the race.

Woodbine’s racing team members, including the gate crew and the outriders, are trained to rapidly respond to any issues or incidents that may occur.

Woodbine takes extra measures on hot or cold race days for the horses’ comfort and safety. Trainers have the option to scratch their horse from a race without repercussions on extremely hot or cold days.

Woodbine also follows local public health recommendations associated with outdoor sports in the event of unsafe air quality.


  • Extra hosing stations or mobile cooling stations with a trained attendant
  • Access to water for horses at all times before and after their race
  • Ice is available in numerous locations
  • Racing Officials minimize the time horses are out on the track before the races (post parade).


  • Racing Officials minimize the time horses are out on the track before the races (post parade).
  • The Woodbine race office frequently communicates with jockeys and trainers on cold days to ensure they remain comfortable participating in the weather conditions.

A Thoroughbred’s Raceday Experience

The horses are each visited by an official AGCO veterinarian. The vet conducts a hands-on exam and observes each horse jogging to identify lameness or gait issues. Any notes from this exam are kept with each horse’s medical history for future reference. If the vet deems a horse unfit to race it is scratched from the race.

  1. Horses enrolled in the EIPH Program will receive Lasix (furosemide, a diuretic medication) 4 hours before their race. The race program indicates which horses use Lasix. The administration of medications, drugs and substances (Lasix exempt) are prohibited 24 hours prior to first race post time to protect the welfare of the equine athlete and provide a level playing field for all competitors.
  2. Approximately 30 minutes before the race, horses are walked by a groom, hotwalker, or trainer from their backstretch barn to the Woodbine paddock. In the paddock, the horses are tacked up, and mounted by the jockey. The commission vet in the paddock continues to watch for any signs of lameness or discomfort in each horse and will examine horses at their discretion.
  3. The horses, ridden by jockeys, are walked by their grooms out of the paddock where they meet up with their paired outriders before entering the racetrack. The outriders, trained to respond to various emergencies, ride alongside each horse to keep them comfortable in their warmup before the race. There are always two additional outriders present, prepared to provide extra assistance if needed.
  4. One by one, horses are safely loaded into the starting gate by the gate crew. The gate crew is comprised of individuals with experience safely handling racehorses and managing the equipment. The gate is specially designed with padding and mechanisms meant to keep horses safe.
  5. During each race, two ambulances with paramedics, a horse ambulance with vets, and the outriders are prepared to respond immediately in case an incident occurs.
  6. After the race, each horse is unsaddled, given a quick bath and drink of water on the track before they are walked back to the backstretch, back in the care of their grooms and trainers.
  7. Two horses, typically the winner and one other, will be drug tested immediately following each race.


Woodbine ensures track surfaces remain safe by testing and reporting on the quality of all tracks before and during racing.

Woodbine’s main track is an all-weather synthetic surface called Tapeta. The footing is comprised of a carefully selected mixture of the finest silica sand, wax and fibres. The all-weather main track is galloped mastered (harrowed and leveled) to maintain ideal conditions throughout training and race days. The maintenance of the track is entirely dependent on weather conditions and temperature.
The consistency and predictability of the Tapeta surface makes it the safest in Thoroughbred racing.

Woodbine has two Turf Courses; The Bet365 Inner Turf and the E.P. Taylor Turf Course. Both turf tracks are respected as industry leading courses and are delicately cared for to maintain top standards.


There are more than 1,400 horses that live in the barns on the Woodbine backstretch. Each racehorse has a team of people who care for them daily. Some of these experts include trainers, veterinarians, grooms, hotwalkers, and blacksmiths.

All caretakers on the Woodbine backstretch must be licensed by the AGCO to access the backstretch or paddock. In assessing the suitability for licensing, issues of honesty, integrity and probity are considered. The backstretch is monitored 24/7 by the Woodbine Security team.

How does Woodbine care for horse people?

Woodbine supports the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario (HBPA). The HBPA facilitates programs that provide services like insurance and pension plans and career development opportunities for backstretch workers and horse people.


Woodbine is compliant with The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s (AGCO). The AGCO’s core regulatory functions related to horse racing in Ontario include licensing, officiating, investigations, and inspection activities.

The agency establishes and enforces the Rules of Racing in our province, many of which act to protect horses from mistreatment or injury. The AGCO also appoints racetrack officials including Stewards, who act as the “judges”, reviewing races to ensure no rules have been broken. If a rule is broken, the situation is investigated, and the perpetrator can be faced with monetary fines, suspension, or expulsion.

Woodbine is also regulated by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA). The CPMA is a special operating agency within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that regulates and supervises pari-mutuel betting in Canada on horse races, to ensure that pari-mutuel betting is conducted in a way that is fair to the public.

One of the key responsibilities of the CPMA is collecting and analyzing urine or blood samples from horses before and/or after a horse race for drug testing. The CPMA maintains the official list of approved medications for racehorses in Canada.


Woodbine Entertainment supports prominent organizations that provide for retired race horses.

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations. Since 2012, the organization has granted more than $28.1 million (US) to accredited aftercare organizations, and 15,500 horses have been retrained, rehomed, or retired by accredited organizations.

LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society, founded in 1999, provides care to retired racehorses on their farm in Hillsburgh, Ontario and works to find them new homes. With the help of donations and support from the Ontario racing community, LongRun has found new adoptive homes for more than 1,000 retired Thoroughbreds.

Woodbine is proud to celebrate these organizations and more during its annual Aftercare Alliance Day each October.


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