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Canada's Woodbine feature - Part Two
11 Sep 2017 | By Grant Courtney - 

As Woodbine heads into its Group 1 double weekend of the Ricoh Woodbine Mile and Natalma Stakes photo journalist Grant Courtney files his images of Woodbine's Backstretch track from the recent Breeders' Stakes meeting - Woodbine Part Two.

A horse heads out at sunrise on the Tapeta track. Located near Pearson Airport, low flying aircraft are a natural occurrence and the horses are used to them.

A racetrack needs a horse population and facilities to support their meetings, and Woodbine has that well covered. In fact for a major city track - it’s training and stabling facilities are unique. The privately owned 684 acre site is home to some 2000 horses over the 133-day meet which runs from April to December.

Located near Toronto’s Pearson Airport, it provides a range of tracks on which horses can exercise. The main training track is the Tapeta surface, which is one-mile in circumference and is used daily for training by local horsemen. The track opens at 0600 daily and closes at 1000.

A horse exercises on the Tapeta track.

The Tapeta track.

The Tapeta provides a good training surface in all weather conditions, which is particularly relevant when horses return to Toronto prior to the season opening. 

Trainers will send horses out in groups on the Tapeta course.

However Woodbine is also able to provide other surfaces for horses. The main grass track is used for training n advance of major turf races such as the Grade 1 Ricoh Woobine Mile and Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International or with special permission, but there is a smaller grass track available and also a dirt track.

A horse utilises the dirt track that is part of the training complex. Inside the dirt track there is a turf track also available.

For a change of scenery there is also a sand based trail available. Named Baker’s Acres it is located in a quiet corner of the extensive property.

A horse canters around Baker’s Acres, which provides a great change of scenery for a horse that might need something different in it’s training regime.

Open and well-ventilated stabling provides a home for the horses in training.

Horses graze after their mornings work.

Like any training base the horse are well cared for. Working with horses is a labour of love and is very much a lifestyle commitment for those involved. They love horse and take enormous pride in caring for them.

The horses are lovingly washed after their mornings work

Visiting trainer Neil Morris and his charge Swellelegent 

Horse people the world over are interested in great horses. The morning I visited Woodbine, Winx had just won her 18th straight race. She was the talk of the barns and everyone had a look at the replay on their smart phones.

Men, woman and horses tune into to watch a replay of Winx.

As with all horse populations – there is always fan favourites. Tower Of Texas certainly fits the bill at Woodbine. By Street Sense, the handsome gelding is a multiple graded stakes winner and his bold run on style gets the crowds excited. The big T marking on his face is a standout!

Tower Of Texas interacting with his fans – he loves a mint!

Note - Tower Of Texas runs in the $800,000, Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (1600m) on turf on Saturday. Full form for the programme and links to watch the Woodbine online broadcast of the meeting will be published later this week.

All pictures Grant Courtney -

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