Pennsylvania tracks get state approval to resume live racing

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: June 11, 2020

Horsemen’s groups at Park Racing and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course on June 10 said the tracks have received confirmation from the Pennsylvania Department of Health that they can resume live racing effective immediately.

The letter states that COVID-19 mitigation plans “must include, at a minimum, a process for testing or screening for COVID-19 and monitoring all on-premises attendees. In the yellow phase, no fans or spectators are allowed in or directly outside of the site or venue.”

Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan has three phases: red, yellow and green. Five of the state’s six tracks are located in counties designated as yellow at this time.

Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Sal DeBunda said he received the letter of confirmation that the track’s COVID-19 mitigation plans have been approved, and he is in direct contact with Parx Chief Operating Officer Joe Wilson “to determine a date for live racing to resume under the approved protocols as soon as possible.”

DeBunda earlier said he hope racing would resume, without on-track patrons, no later than June 22.

The revised Parx condition book is available on the Equibase website. It is heavy on starter allowance events—the only claiming races are maiden waiver-claiming events—and no turf races are listed in the book.

Todd Mostoller, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the health and safety protocols were approved by the state and that Penn National will re-open for racing June 19. For the first three weeks, racing will be held Wednesday and Friday nights, and thereafter a third night will be added per week.

“The overnight purse structure will be as it was when racing ceased in March,” Mostoller said.

The Penn National condition book will be posted on the Equibase website soon. Entries for the first day of racing will be taken 72 hours in advance.

Mostoller said the Pennsylvania HBPA continues to work for approval for Presque Isle Downs & Casino to begin its 2020 meet. The situation is more complex because the barn area still hasn’t opened and Erie County remains in the yellow phase.

Mostoller said no horses should be shipped to Presque Isle until a firm re-opening date is announced.