Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic halt racing throughout much of the U.S., but delayed the start of the 2020 Thoroughbred season at Woodbine, Canada’s most important track. The Toronto-area course re-opens Saturday, spectator-free for the time being, and runs through Dec. 13.

Beginning the third week in June, Woodbine will race four days a week on a Thursday-to-Sunday basis. Post time is 1 p.m. ET daily with the exception of Thursdays, when first post is 3:45 p.m.

Like other tracks throughout North America, Woodbine has had to juggle its stakes schedule for 2020 after missing the first seven weeks of its originally scheduled season. Two notable changes were announced earlier this spring.

Major race date changes at Woodbine

Like the Kentucky Derby, Canada’s premier 3-year-old race has been postponed to September for the first time in its history. The C$1 million Queen’s Plate, restricted to Canadian-breds, will be run the Saturday after the Kentucky classic on Sept. 12.

Unlike the American Triple Crown, though, Canada’s Triple Crown retains its chronological order this year. The Prince of Wales at Fort Erie follows the Queen’s Plate on Sept. 29, while the Breeders’ S. on the turf closes out the series at Woodbine on Oct. 24.

The other significant change to the Woodbine stakes schedule is that one of the country’s leading fixtures, the Canadian International (G1), has been put on a one-year hiatus. Its October spot on the calendar will be filled by the Northern Dancer Turf (G1), which normally serves as an International prep. It shares the Oct. 18 card with the E.P. Taylor (G1) for fillies and mares.

Postponed by a week in September are several of Woodbine’s other leading turf events.

The C$1 million Woodbine Mile (G1) will now be run Sept. 19, while the Summer (G1) and Natalma (G1) for juveniles will be held the following afternoon. All three are Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge races.

The jockey colony this season will be without Eurico Rosa Da Silva, who retired at the end of 2019 after earning his fifth consecutive Woodbine riding title. Norm McKnight led the 2019 trainer standings for a third consecutive year over recent U.S. Hall of Fame inductee Mark Casse, who had previously won 10 straight Woodbine titles from 2007-16.

Fans should also be on the lookout during the Woodbine stand for reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Starship Jubilee. The grass-based mare is going better than ever at age seven and is already 3-for-3 this season, her last two victories coming in the Hillsborough (G2) and Suwannee River (G3).