Bets and bridles aside, the backstretch at Woodbine is the place to be these days. At least for several horse racing fans, who were given a behind the scenes glimpse into the daily track operations as part of Woodbine's Backstretch Tour.
The backstretch is home to nearly 200 trainers and 2,000 horses throughout the eight month meet at Woodbine. Various trainers have set up shop on Northern Dancer Avenue, while many stable hands and grooms have made a home for themselves in the apartment complexes overlooking the barns.
Led by Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley and Turf writer Keith McCalmont, the Backstretch Tour gave visitors a rare opportunity to meet Nipissing - one of the top contenders for next week's Queen's Plate. In June, Nipissing won the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks with veteran jockey Steven Bahen aboard.
Trained by Rachel Halden, Nipissing will run four furlongs tomorrow in preparation for the one mile and one-quarter long Queen's Plate next Sunday. According to Halden, Nipissing's biggest competition will be Up With The Birds.
The longest continuously run stakes race in North America, the Queen's Plate is open to three year-olds foaled in Canada. The 154 running of the Plate takes place July 7 at Woodbine Racetrack.