PA racing dates allocated for 2019, but changes expected

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Nov. 29, 2018

Three Thoroughbred tracks in Pennsylvania have been approved for 497 live racing days in 2019, but the number is expected to drop pending a modification to the schedule at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission Nov.29 issued its customary approvals for racing dates and other operational matters for the state’s six tracks. Parx Racing applied for 170 programs under a schedule that is similar to this year’s calendar, while Presque Isle Downs & Casino again requested 100 days.

The Penn National request is for 227 racing programs—this year it was awarded 194 dates—but Tom Chuckas, Director of Thoroughbred Racing for the PHRC, noted that track management and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association are still working on a calendar. He said he suspects a revised proposal with fewer days will be submitted.

In any event, Penn National applied for its typical year-round calendar with most racing on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule. The track’s request includes live racing on multiple Monday holidays, which hasn’t been the case in recent years.

There also were indications the schedule for Presque Isle Downs, which requested to race from mid-May through mid-October, could change. Churchill Downs Inc., which earlier this year announced a deal to buy the racetrack casino near Erie and a Mississippi casino from El Dorado Resorts for a combined $229 million, hasn’t yet taken over Presque Isle Downs, Chuckas said, so the application for racing dates was submitted by El Dorado.

Parx will race three days a week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays) in January, February, March, June, July and December, and four days a week (Sundays added) in April, May, September, October and November. There will a break in the action again in August, with no racing slotted for Aug. 7 through Aug. 30; only four programs are scheduled for the month.

The calendars show the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes are set for Sept. 21 at Parx, and at Penn National the Penn Mile program is slated for June 1.

The state’s three Standardbred tracks were awarded 478 racing programs: 195 at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, 150 at Harrah’s Philadelphia, and 133 at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The Meadows, which is now operated by Penn National Gaming Inc., as usual will race year-round.

(Parx Racing photo by Tom LaMarra)