On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear released a general phased plan to re-open businesses in Kentucky. Phase one will begin on May 11. Among the industries listed to continue is horse racing. Churchill Downs, and other racing venues in the state, will be allowed to hold meets without fans.
Racing reopening ends Beshear’s standoff with horse industry
The frustration from leaders in the horse racing community toward Beshear has been apparent in the past couple of weeks. Beshear upheld the suspension in horse racing, while those in the industry alleged it was safe enough to resume without spectators. Kentucky will be joining several states that have been allowing races to occur without fans.
IN Betting talked with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Damon Thayer about his attempts to convince the Governor to bring horse racing back to the Commonwealth. He was just one of many in Kentucky that has been lobbying to allow the state’s signature industry to resume. It has happened weeks after their first objections, but Beshear has finally agreed on a detailed proposal.
Gov. Beshear discussed the agreement met to bring horse racing back with the Herald-Leader.
“I will tell you,” Beshear said, “that this is one of the most detailed plans that we have seen about specific security checks, everybody has to go through and be temperature checked to masking. It (will be) a very limited group that is there.”
Churchill Downs leads the way, will Keeneland follow?
Churchill Downs will likely be the first venue to resume, with Keeneland to follow. On May 11, Churchill will begin to accept horses and their connections. It will take another week to get the horses ready, finish the schedule, and enact adequate arrangements for racing to begin. Horses from the Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, and Tampa Bay Downs are all scheduled to relocate to Churchill Downs in Louisville.
There are still some questions remaining of how these meets will be scheduled. Normally, Churchill Downs would meet until the end of June but that could potentially be extended. Keeneland has already canceled its April meet, so will the track pick up any races? There have been some ideas floating around that they might do just that.
Ellis Park is a new horse racing track in Henderson, Kentucky. It was recently purchased, and the new owners might not want to run live racing while the property’s historical horse racing machines are still closed. They have dates in July and August, some of those could end up going to Keeneland. If not, Keeneland will be waiting until the fall meet to resume.
What horse racing will look like post-coronavirus
The Kentucky Derby was obviously supposed to run this weekend. The run for the roses is now scheduled for Sept. 5. With the way things are looking in the country because of COVID-19, it is likely that it could also be spectator-less.
Bringing this industry back is positive for fans and the state. Moreover, Kentucky needs an additional revenue stream since many have ceased in the wake of coronavirus. There are fewer taxes and more expenses on the table. Horse racing supporters say the state has been missing the lucrative impact that horse racing generates.
Sports fans are also in need of content. Racetracks that have resumed through the pandemic have shown a rise in online betting because of the lack of sporting events. Handles are four to five times their normal amount, granted that is spurred in part by a lack of races to bet on. Horse racing is a sport that can still thrive without fans because of the existence of wagering platforms.
Gov. Beshear is going to continue to keep a close eye on horse racing as it resumes.
“These are cautious steps that are going to be done with strict compliance and I would not be suggesting these if I did not think that we could do them safely. If it proves that we can’t do any of it safely it is always subject to pause,” Beshear said.
Hopefully, the worst days of this health pandemic have passed, and businesses can begin the process of returning to normality. Many have wanted this to happen sooner, but nonetheless, it will begin in May.