Woodbine Entertainment, HBPA reach agreement on two-year contract

TORONTO — The 2023 thoroughbred racing season at Woodbine Racetrack will start on time.

Woodbine Entertainment and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario (HBPA) agreed on a two-year deal Friday.

The agreement commits $62 million in purses for the 2023 and 2024 thoroughbred racing meets. It also includes a 133-race day meet in 2023 and 129 dates in 2024.

Woodbine said in a statement that despite fewer race days in 2024, it expects the number of races offered to be substantially the same as 2023 through more optimized scheduling.

The '23 season begins April 22.

"We are pleased to reach this new agreement with the HBPA so we can now collectively focus our energy on the incredible season of thoroughbred racing that lies ahead," Woodbine chief executive officer Jim Lawson said in the statement. "Over the last few years, our industry came together through difficult times and put forward a world-class racing product that continues to grow globally."

The deal also calls for Woodbine Entertainment to continue contributing $300,000 annually to the HBPA to improve working benefits and conditions for those on Woodbine's backstretch.

"We are also pleased to come to an agreement with Woodbine Entertainment so we can work together and in partnership for the betterment of horse people and the industry," said HBPA president Sue Leslie. "There is a tremendous amount of opportunity to grow our sport in the coming years and that is best achieved by working together, shoulder to shoulder."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2023.

The Canadian Press