Back On Track: Woodbine Racetrack Kicks Off 2021 Season With Record Opening Day

Written By Robyn McNeil on June 18, 2021 - Last Updated on June 27, 2022
Words: Back on Track in the foreground. Background shows a jockey raising an arm in victory as a horse race ends

Woodbine’s long-awaited 2021 Thoroughbred meet finally kicked off on Saturday with an opening day record handle of $6.9 million.

Delayed almost two months, Woodbine’s 2021 campaign started strong with horseplayers wagering $6,912,477 on the season-opening, 11-race card. Clearly, people are eager for the return of live racing as COVID-19 restrictions lift.

Saturday’s record-breaking handle broke the previous opening-day high of $5.5 million. That record, set in 2020, followed another pandemic-related delayed start. 

Racing excitement continued Sunday with 13 races.

Welcome back, trotters

Opening weekend’s live races offered a warm-up before another three days of live-action this week. The full schedule of live racing at Woodbine returns to a regular four-day-a-week schedule as of June 24.

Woodbine’s reopening comes as the Government of Ontario’s ‘Roadmap to Reopen’ enters its first stage. Stage One allows horseracing without spectators, but fans can watch and wager via  They can also catch the action via the live stream available on

“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. 

“Although our industry has been substantially impacted, I do very much remain confident in the future of horse racing in Ontario. On behalf of Woodbine Entertainment, thank you to our horse people for their patience, professionalism, and resiliency.”

Place your bets

The weekend’s season-opening cards guaranteed a $100,000 pool for the Early Pick-4. All Saturday and Sunday cards throughout the meet will offer the same. The Early Pick-5 is in effect each race day, with a $50,000 guarantee. The track also has a Late Pick-5 on all Saturday and Sunday cards this season.

The Jackpot Hi-5 is on each day’s final race in 2021 too. However, unlike previous years, the jackpot started race season with a carryover of $117,062.64. A boost to the prize stemming from the cancellation of last year’s final card.

Finally, the Power Pick-6 wager, with its 15 percent takeout, is on the menu again this year. Offered on each day’s final six races, every day without a winning six for six ticket builds the carryover.

Other possible wagers include rolling doubles, rolling Pick-3, and a Late Pick-4 on cards with nine or more scheduled races. All races contain Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta wagering unless otherwise noted.

Record-breaking wagers

Excited Horseplayers certainly took advantage of Woodbine’s extensive betting menu, flooding the featured multi-leg wagers. 

Opening day bettors wagered $147,660 on the Early Pick-4 and $160,339 on the Late Pick-4.  The Early Pick-5 brought in $128,908. The afternoon’s eighth race (14-horse, mile, maiden allowance, turf) attracted the day’s largest handle, generating $1.1 million in bets. 

The day’s average handle was $628,407.

This weekend’s action kicks off with The Grade 3 $150,000 Whimsical Stakes and the $125,000 Star Shoot Stakes sharing the spotlight on Saturday’s 12-race card.

According to Lawson, expectations for the season are high despite the late start.

“We expect our season to start strong and build momentum as it heads into the summer.”

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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with a mischievous cat and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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