PTHA hoping for live racing at Parx in late June

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 31, 2020

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is hopeful live action can resume at Parx Racing June 22, but much still hinges on negotiations with track management.

PTHA President Sal DeBunda, in a May 30 video update to membership, said a May 28 meeting among racing interests and members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration “went very well.” He noted the governor agreed to allow all racetracks to open when there individual counties move to “yellow”—the second phase of the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan—and state health officials approve COVID-19 protocols for all six tracks in Pennsylvania.

Bucks County, where Parx is located, is still designated “red,” but DeBunda said the PTHA hopes it moves to yellow “hopefully no later than June 5.” He estimated it would then take two weeks for live racing to commence, assuming management agrees to do so in light of the fact the Parx Casino won’t be able to reopen by that time.

“We’ll basically have to negotiate with them for opening the racetrack,” DeBunda said.

In addition, the PTHA expects to negotiate with management on revenue from pari-mutuel handle. There is no indication when patrons will be permitted on track or at off-track betting facilities to wager, and the revenue cut for horsemen from export of the signal is far less.

DeBunda said there is a purse reserve that can carry live racing three days a week for eight to 10 weeks. “We hope the casinos open in July,” he said. “If we don’t get that money (from slot machines for the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund), we’re going to have a problem.”

The reopening purse structure still must be negotiated. DeBunda said the PTHA wants to race three days a week through the end of 2020—with no August break—with racing Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “We would be able to get bigger handle on our product on Wednesdays instead of Saturdays,” he said.

In other news, the Parx backstretch recently began to accept new horses subject to certain protocols issued by the Racing Office, and horses are now permitted to ship elsewhere to race should those tracks accept shippers given COVID-19 restrictions. On June 2, the starting gate will be available for gate works on Tuesdays and Saturdays each week at a cost of $1,500 a day to the PTHA.

“There has been no interruption in training (since the live racing shutdown in mid-March), but it will come at a significant cost to the PTHA,” DeBunda said. “We’ll have to that pay back over the next six months.”

(Parx Racing photo by Tom LaMarra)