Monmouth sets July opening; updates on other racing operations

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: April 8, 2020

Monmouth Park has again delayed the opening of its barn area and beginning of its 2020 race meet due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Track officials announced April 8 that the stable area is now set to open June 1 with a target date of July 4 weekend for live racing. The meet was scheduled to begin May 2.

“We want to keep our horsemen and fans as informed as possible,” said Dennis Drazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “With Gov. (Phil) Murphy extending the health care emergency in New Jersey by an additional 30 days, it became impossible for us to move forward with our planned May 1 opening for stabling.

“We’ll continue to follow the governor’s leadership and look forward to a great season of racing at the Jersey Shore.”

The $1 million, Grade I Haskell Invitational remains scheduled for July 18.

Meadowlands, which suspended its Standardbred meet in March, issued a statement that said it may be able to resume live racing May 1 contingent on matters out of its control. The track also said there could be alterations to the fall Thoroughbred meet.

“We are cautiously optimistic that as a result of the delay to the opening of its live meet that Monmouth Park will race a turf only meet at The Meadowlands in 2020 and not convert the main track,” the track said. “This potential development may give us some flexibility so far as making up live race dates in October and November.”

Meanwhile, the New York Racing Association said the Oklahoma Training Track and stabling area at Saratoga Race Course will be delayed. The Oklahoma Training Track was scheduled to open April 15.

NYRA said it is working with the New York State Gaming Commission and public health agencies to determine an appropriate date to safely open the facility for training and stabling.

The Saratoga meet, however, remains scheduled for July 16-Sept. 7, NYRA said. For the most part racing will be held five days a week on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule.

NYRA earlier announced the cancellation of the remainder of the Aqueduct Racetrack spring meet, which was to end April 19. There is no word yet on the status of the Belmont Park spring meet, which is scheduled to commence April 24.

The following is an update on the status of other suspended or upcoming meets:

Delaware: The stable area at Delaware Park opened on time in March and the 2020 race meet is scheduled to begin May 27 as planned as this time.

Illinois: Arlington Park earlier informed the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association the barn area would not open April 10 as planned, and no further updates have been provided from the track. The Arlington race meet was supposed to begin May 1 but has been postponed.

“Arlington further advised that it anticipates changes, which have not yet been specified, to the summer meet schedule,” the ITHA said.

Elsewhere in Illinois, Fairmount Park launched its 2020 meet on time but has since suspended racing because of COVID-19.

Maryland: Laurel Park held several days of live racing without patrons on the grounds but ceased racing March 15 after an executive order from the governor. Officials currently are attempting to identify a date when live racing could resume pending directives from state government.

The Preakness Stakes will not be held in May, so it’s expected live racing will remain at Laurel and racing at Pimlico Race Course moved to a later date.

Pennsylvania: Both Parx Racing and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course have been shuttered for live racing since mid-March. Officials with the tracks’ respective horsemen’s groups suggested live racing may not resume until the casinos at the two facilities get the go-ahead to reopen.

The barn area at Presque Isle Downs & Casino could open May 1, with live racing scheduled to begin May 11, but the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association said both dates are subject to change pending developments.

West Virginia: Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was able to offer two programs without patrons March 20-21 but then closed because of a stay-at-home order from the governor. The April 18 $1 million, Grade II Charles Town Classic and some open stakes could be run later in the year. At this time, there is no timetable for a return to live racing.