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With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down casinos across the U.S., Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. and American Gaming Group, LLC, the owner of Wildwood Casino, decided to terminate the previously announced acquisition of Wildwood Casino. Both parties deemed the termination necessary because of the current economic impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis. "At this time, we believe it's in the best interest of both companies, and our respective casinos, to cancel the deal so we can focus on doing what's best for our casinos and our players," Joe Canfora, the owner of Wildwood Casino, said. "At Wildwood, we're taking this time to develop and implement an entire health and safety strategy that goes above and beyond state and local guidelines to better protect our players and provide a comfortable, safe environment for gaming." Among the new health and safety practices, Wildwood will have on-demand cleaning crews moving throughout the casino to clean surfaces as needed and as requested by players. The casino will also be reducing its operating hours to allow for extended, deep cleaning every night. Additionally, management is looking into UV light technologies for potential air filtration and other newly discovered, best practices for protecting patrons from the virus. "This is all about the safety and security of our players and our employees," Wildwood Casino's Assistant General Manager Matt Andrighetti said. In mid-April, Wildwood distributed a digital survey to their player database asking for thoughts and feelings regarding the current pandemic and what will be important when returning to the casino. Close to 1400 players participated in the survey. "We received a lot of great input from our players, and now, we're using their feedback to create a comprehensive health and safety plan that surpasses the county and state, mandatory precautions," Andrighetti said. Also, as the newest casino building in Cripple Creek, Wildwood features high ceilings and a single-level gaming floor to offer players a more spacious, less cramped environment, he said. Along with extensively preparing for the casino's reopening, Wildwood has multiple other initiatives that are pushing forward despite the coronavirus pandemic. Construction for Wildwood's 104-room, $14-million hotel has continued throughout the crisis and will continue, Andrighetti said. Wildwood's sports betting will be launching soon. And, Wildwood is rebranding their in-casino restaurant, Joe's Diner, to feature a new theme, design and menu to cater to players and provide great seating for Wildwood's sports betting players.

Seeking Field Representative who will be responsible for addressing the needs of our harness racing horsemen -- owners, trainers, drivers and caretakers -- at Yonkers Raceway during racing hours. In this position, the Field Representative needs strong communication skills in order to be a fearless representative of the horsemen. A full understanding of the harness racing industry, including knowledge of the regulations governing racing, is required. The Field Representative will be responsible for interacting regularly with the judges and the race office and, at times, the Gaming Commission. The position requires that the Field Representative communicate effectively with the SOA’s Officers and Board of Directors, with a particular need to keep the President of the SOA fully and timely informed as to all matters.    Interested and qualified parties should send their resume to the attention of Peter Venaglia, Chairman of Personnel Committee c/o SOA of NY, 733 Yonkers Ave, Suite 102, Yonkers NY, 10704 or via email at soaofny@gmail.com SEEKING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Seeking Executive Director who is responsible for directing and coordinating all operations of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. A full understanding of the horse racing industry, office management, contract negotiations, government relations, medical and pension plans, investments, insurances and strong communication skills are required. Interested and qualified parties should send resume to the attention of Peter Venaglia, Chairman of Personnel Committee c/o SOA of NY, 733 Yonkers Ave, Suite 102, Yonkers NY, 10704 or via email at soaofny@gmail.com

NEW YORK -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that harness racing across the state will be allowed to reopen as of June 1 without fans. As the state moves forward with their phased reopening, Cuomo said they are also looking to open economic activities without crowds or gatherings. "If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that's great," he said. "We can do that in this state horse racing tracks and we're going to do that." Cuomo said there will be be guidelines for the actual participants. The horse racing venues that will be opening up are as follows: - Aqueduct Racetrack - Batavia Downs - Belmont Park - Buffalo Raceway - Finger Lakes Racetrack - Monticello Raceway - Saratoga Race Course - Saratoga Raceway - Tioga Downs - Vernon Downs - Yonkers Raceway Cuomo added the reopening of the Watkins Glen International racetrack, which will be able to open on June 1 without fans. When asked about baseball, the governor said there is a large number of maintenance staff and support staff that has to be accounted for. He questioned about social distancing measures.  

Batavia, NY --- Bernie E. Hanley, age 84, of Batavia, New York died peacefully on Thursday (May 7) at the home of his daughter while under the care of Hospice and his loving family. Mr. Hanley was born on Feb. 9, 1936, in Fulton, N.Y., a son of the late Laurence and Mary (Welch) Hanley. After graduating from Batavia High School, he went on to honorably serve his country in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Upon returning stateside, Mr. Hanley got involved in harness racing in the 1960's and bought his first horse to compete at Batavia Downs, a pacer named Chief Maynard (2:00.3, $138,342). He was one of the best top-class pacers in western New York at the time and found the winner's circle many times. He also raced Mac's Miss Mary (1:55.3, $150,794), Irish Dancer A (1:59, $117,693), Overnight Guy (2:01.3, $64,985) and several others during his career. Although Mr. Hanley was well known on the local harness racing circuit as an owner/trainer for many years, most would remember him (and his wife Mary Ann) as the owner of Hanley's Restaurant, which was conveniently located directly across the street from Batavia Downs. Hanley's was the "horseman's hangout" after the races for decades where wins were celebrated, races were relived and many longtime friendships were formed. Upon retirement, the Hanley's moved South to Florida and enjoyed the sun for close to thirty years. While there, was Mr. Hanley was a member of the Deland Amvets Post 13 and the Deland Elks Lodge 1463. He was also a member of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia. Mr. Hanley had many friends both in and out of harness racing and will be remembered by all as a hard-working man who loved his family deeply. Mr. Hanley is survived by his loving wife of 61 years, Mary Ann (Musshafen) Hanley of Batavia; children, Patrick (Carol) Hanley of Alabama, Elsie (Greg) Lee of Batavia and Dr. Greg (Angela) Hanley of Tennessee; brother, Larry (Mary) Hanley of Akron; 10 cherished grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren along with many nieces and nephews. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, Mr. Hanley's Mass of Christian Burial will take place at a later date. Memorial contributions in his memory can be made to Home Care & Hospice, 26 Liberty Street, Batavia, NY 14020 or at http://www.homecare-hospice.org. You can share your words of comfort with Mr. Hanley's family at www.tomaszewskifh.com.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Nichols, NY - In light of the recent announcement that the New York regions containing both Tioga and Vernon Downs will be among the first to make a gradual return to business, Jeff Gural is working toward opening those tracks for live harness racing, hopefully by the end of May.   Negotiations with the Horsemen's organizations regarding details on just how to accomplish that in a fashion that would give racing the best chance to be conducted safely are underway.   "Although it's not in my best business interests to open for racing before the casinos get back going as originally planned, being a horseman I sympathize with the guys that race with us and the situation they have found themselves in through no fault of their own," said Jeff Gural, owner/operator of Tioga and Vernon Downs.   "Another key issue is the status of the NY Sires Stakes (NYSS) program. There are a lot of unknowns about the other tracks, when they will be able to open and what the landscape will look like when they do. I understand that Buffalo has chosen not to host NYSS races, so if we're able to get open we'll include that leg with those raced at Tioga and Vernon and get the program started."   "The picture should become much clearer over the next few days. We are busy working out the details of what will be expected of us to race and just how we'll get that done. Horsemen will need to be involved and diligent in policing themselves because we can not afford a single mistake."   Further details will be announced as they become known.   Nick Salvi        

Batavia, NY --- Former Vice-President of Operations at Batavia Downs, James P. Samberg, passed away on Wednesday (Apr. 29) at the age of 85. Mr. Samberg was born in 1935 in Detroit, MI where he attended Precious Blood Catholic School and Catholic Central High School. He went on to graduate from St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto with a degree in Theology and Writing. He taught English and history for a year at his alma mater, Catholic Central HS and then at Aquinas Institute. In 1983 Mr. Samberg transitioned careers and came to Batavia Downs as their Director of Publicity. His leadership in the organization eventually moved him to overseeing the entire plant as vice-president of operations, a position he held until the tracks initial closure in 1997. In 1998 Mr. Samberg reached out to Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) with a proposal to sell the track to them and was eventually able to consummate a deal that year. The track re-opened under its new ownership in 2002. It was the efforts of Mr. Samberg to move Batavia Downs forward that gave the shuttered track a new life under the guidance of the WROTB and that interaction eventually turned out to be financially beneficial to the residents of 15 western New York counties (that include the cities of Buffalo and Rochester) by returning over $220 million in revenues generated by the now modern and thriving racing and gaming venue to the taxpayers of those municipalities over the last 18-years. Mr. Samberg was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend who loved life and everyone he knew. He was well respected by all the horsemen who raced at Batavia Downs during his tenure and will be missed by everyone who knew him. Mr. Samberg was predeceased by his parents, Louis and Martha Samberg; loving wife, Barbara P. Samberg; son, Michael P. McDonald. He is survived by his children, Martha Smith, Mark (Jacqueline) McDonald, Margo McDonald and Meghan McDonald (Scott Boone); 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; brother, Carl L. Samberg; sister, Suzanne (Ronald) Marmol; sister-in-law, Donna Warner; several nieces and nephews; and special friend of the family, Bonnie Jones. A Memorial Mass at St. Ann's Home will be scheduled at a later date due to the current situation. Interment at Holy Sepulchre was held privately. Memorials may be made to the American Kidney Foundation or to the Sisters of Mercy. To share a memory of James please visit www.giltnerfuneralhomes.com.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

With the vast open paddock space at harness racing's Goshen Historic Track, I reiterate that it would be doable to have qualifiers there and insure that all social distancing mandates, wisely put in place, are observed.   Goshen will not permit spectators, only one groom, perhaps a limited number of trainers will be present and certainly a very limited number of drivers will be on hand.   Goshen being a betting free Fair Track, any racing activity there is under the jurisdiction of the USTA.   In the past whatever charted lines were prepared were incorporated into the USTA data base and then used as part of the official breed registry records.   Records which are  relied upon for years as both accurate and reliable when inserted into official racing programs at pari-mutuel track in all of North America.   Even  assuming  there may be a waiver of the existing 30 day qualifying rule, some horsemen still want and need to tighten up their horses and further educate their babies. We understand that the coronavirus has changed everyone’s mindset as to what is or is not doable but we are confident that we can achieve and insure a safe environment and serve the future needs of racing. I hope we can get some further guidance and your approval to go forward.   I have spoken with the Goshen Historic Track and they will do anything to help harness racing and I know the Gaming Commission feels the same way. Joe Faraldo, President SOA of NY

Batavia, NY --- Todd Haight, who is the Director and General Manager of Live Harness Racing at Batavia Downs, was named the interim Chairman of United States Trotting Association District 8 region on Friday (Apr. 17). Haight will replace long time District 8 chairman Michael Kane, who resigned earlier this year. Haight was elected by his peers to his first term as a director during voting held back in January of this year and was assigned to the Communications/Marketing, Pari-Mutuel and Regulatory committees. He was again voted by his peers to the chairman position last week. District 8 covers all of New York State as far south as Orange County. The roster of current directors include Kim Crawford, Mark Ford, John Matarazzo, Ray Schnittker, Mike Torcello and Scott Warren. "I want to thank Mike Kane for the outstanding job he did during his tenure as chair. Having worked with Mike for many years, I feel the transition to his position should be seamless. I'm honored to take over and look forward to working with USTA President Russell Williams, Chairman Joe Faraldo, Vice-chair Mark Loewe and all the USTA directors," said Haight. "Despite the unprecedented times we are all currently working through, I feel that harness racing will return to the sports scene very soon and regain its popularity once again. And in my new role I plan on doing whatever I can to be a part of that resurgence in New York and across North America." Kelly Young is the Executive Director at Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and oversees the operations of the New York Sire Stakes. She works closely with the chairman of District 8 during the stakes year as well as running the awards banquet in the fall. Young has worked with Haight for many years and looks forward to further concerted state racing promotional efforts with him in his new role. "I have been pleased to work with Todd for nearly two decades at Batavia Downs and am excited to welcome him to, and work with him in this new role leading Upstate New York. I would also like to thank outgoing chairman Mike Kane for his collaboration and leadership over the years," said Young. Haight started his career with Western Regional OTB in 1998 when they became the new owners of Batavia Downs. He then served in various positions at the track before taking over as the director and general manager of racing in May of 2011. - Tim Bojarski 716-572-1801 COB - United States Harness Writers Association Hoof Beats Magazine Columnist Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts Publicist Plainridge Park Publicist Batavia Downs Publicist and Track Handicapper     "Show class, have pride and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself" -Paul "Bear" Bryant    

SARATOGA SPRINGS — While the pandemic keeps harness racing fans guessing about the prospects for the sport, grooms and trainers at the Saratoga Casino Hotel’s harness track must still care for the nearly 400 horses in the barns there — with workers’ pay being cut or the future of their jobs in question. “They are going on and continuing to jog and train the horses,” said Tom McTygue, president of the Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association. “They are keeping the horses conditioned and continuing just as if they were racing. But the owners aren’t making any money. If we don’t get racing pretty soon, I don’t know.” The Saratoga Casino Hotel where the harness track is situated suspended racing after March 21 indefinitely, when the season normally runs from March 1 to mid-December. The week before the suspension, the horses ran with no fans in the stands. The track did, however, take bets off-track. Director of Racing John Matarazzo said they raced like that so the horse owners could earn some income to pay drivers, trainers and grooms — the people who care for the horses by walking, saddling, brushing and feeding them. “It went OK,” Matarazzo said. “It’s not the ideal circumstance without fans. We had some business, not a lot. We did it to get the horsemen some purse money. If (the horses) run, the horsemen get some money in their pockets.” The Horseperson’s Association, which is meeting more often than normal during the pandemic to discuss ways to help, has started their efforts with the grooms. They have been giving the 50 or so people who go to work every day — which includes 30 people who live in a dorm on the backstretch — a $50 coupon per week for food from the track kitchen. And this week, the owners got some relief from Chatham Agway, which will donate feed for a week to all the horses that live in the barns. “I partnered with the feed suppliers,” said Paul O’Neil, general manager of Chatham Agway. “Everyone has been very generous. We wanted to make a gesture because they lost every avenue to make money and still have to feed they animals. They are really up against it.” McTygue said his association will also consider on a weekly basis how to help the 50 or so trainers at the track, as well as drivers veterinarians, farriers (hoof specialists) and farmers who supply the hay—all of whom continue to work but might not get paid if the races continue to be shutdown. The group will meet this Saturday to further discuss these matters, including the cost of feed. “The horses are being fed this week,” McTygue said. “We will see what we have to do for next week.” Meanwhile, the backstretch and paddock are on lock down. Only those who work on the backstretch are allowed to be there. And it’s not just people. Owners are not allowed to bring any horse up from the Yonkers Raceway or any track south of Albany. The horseperson’s association also purchased a used trailer to house any groom who gets infected with the virus, so that they have a place to convalesce and be quarantined. The shutdown on the harness backstretch is the same as at New York Racing Association’s Belmont Park, where 585 workers — many of who come to the Saratoga Race Course — live. NYRA’s spokesman said that the track “is restricted to only employees and workers who are essential to the ongoing training operation. The property can now only be accessed at one specific gate where personnel are subjected to standard health assessment performed by EMTs that includes a temperature check.” Horses outside of the area are also restricted to those with “extenuating circumstances subject to the approval of Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations.” Everyone there also must adhere to social distancing protocols and clean and sanitize heavily trafficked and touched common areas. Belmont Park’s racing season was originally scheduled to begin April 24 and conclude July 12, but has now been delayed. Brad Maione, the spokesman for the state Gaming Commission, said that any commission decision on reopening tracks statewide will be “consistent with executive direction.” In other words, it is up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Back at the harness track, management is putting together a proposal for the state Gaming Commission to consider how the track can reopen. In addition to racing without bettors in the stands, the harness track management is considering stagger races so that fewer people and horses are waiting in the paddock area. “It’s not a fix-all, but at least it would keep people separated,” said Wayne Kellogg, owner of Kellogg Racing Stables in Hudson Falls. “If you are in the paddock and can’t keep six feet, you can be required to wear a mask. It can be enforced in the paddock.” Kellogg said he’s lucky that he saves much of his purse money and has enough to care for his eight horses and pay his staff through the first half of the summer. But by August, he doesn’t know how he will make ends meet. Still he feels lucky compared to other owners who don’t have the cash on hand to pay grooms and trainers. McTygue said though its hard now, it could get worse if someone gets sick in the dorms. “If that happens, I’m afraid we are in trouble,” McTygue said. Reprinted with permission of The Post Star

Yonkers, NY — With the disruption in racing at Yonkers Raceway, some adjustments have been made to upcoming stakes payments and scheduling. The MGM Springfield Stakes will now have nominations and first payment fee of $250 closing on May 15. The sustaining payment will now be due June 15. The race is hoped to be contested with eliminations on July 4 and a final on July 11. Divisions of the Reynolds for 3-year-old colt and filly pacers, originally scheduled for May 2, have been canceled. The Hambletonian Society will refund all eligible horses that have made payments for the Reynolds. There were two New York Sire Stakes legs scheduled at Yonkers Raceway in May, a 3-year-old filly trot event May 5 and a 3-year-old filly pace event May 12. Information on those events will be coming directly from the New York Sire Stakes program. Decisions on placement of stakes that were disrupted in March will be made once more clarity emerges on when racing can return at Yonkers Raceway. Those disrupted stakes were the M life Rewards Series for colts and fillies, the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, the Borgata Pacing Series, and the Yonkers/SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series. Yonkers Raceway

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands reminds those who have nominated harness racing horses to our Grand Circuit stakes that the next sustaining payment is due (postmarked by) April 15.   All pertinent information on our stakes including current lists of eligible horses through the March 15 payment and the upcoming sustaining payments may be accessed on The Meadowlands website.   Tioga Payments Due April 15   Nichols, NY - Horsemen should be reminded that the sustaining payment for the Artiscape, Crawford Farms, Joie De Vie and Roll With Joe stakes at Tioga Downs remains due (postmarked by) April 15. Details are available here.   Questions may be directed to 607-972-5500.              

 April 10th , 2020 - The SOA of  NY completed mailing out  155 checks in the amount of $400.00 to those harness racing grooms who participated at Yonkers Raceway over an extended period of time and on a regular basis. The total cost of today’s aid for our most dedicated caretakers amounted to $62,000.00. Joe Faraldo, President of the SOA of NY, said that “these worthy individuals should be receiving their checks in a few days. We are glad to have managed the SOA’s assets in a way that affords us the opportunity to help”.    We suggest to all trainers that grooms doing a paddock make sure that they sign in and show their current groom’s license as in the future the SOA of NY will use that data for eligibility for medical and retirement benefits. Failure to accurately report that information could adversely affect a groom’s eligibility for those important benefits.  

BATAVIA — With the virtual shutdown of the entire State of New York, everything has taken a major hit; from schools and athletics to businesses and every day lives, things won’t be the same again for quite some time, if ever. That, obviously, also has applied to one of the oldest and most cherished sports in the world — the sport of horse racing. More specifically, harness racing. While every track in New York has been shut down, including the thoroughbred venues, there have been a small number of tracks that have remained open throughout the country, though none of those include harness tracks, like the oldest lighted harness track in the country at Batavia Downs. “All New York state racetracks are currently shut down until further notice and are anxiously awaiting word when they can reopen,” said Todd Haight, the Director/General Manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.”Before the New York State racetracks ceased racing operations, they were racing with no patrons in attendance. That could be a way of getting these racetracks open sooner rather than later.” Yet as of March 16, tracks across the state have been temporarily closed to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Buffalo Raceway, which was midway through its current season. However, though there will not be any live racing any time soon, the state mandates have not shuttered all aspects of the sport down completely. “The racetracks that were open before the shut down remain open for training purposes,” Haight said. “Equines must be allowed to get out of their stalls for exercise and receive their proper care. The only real change there is training hours have been reduced. Racetracks that were scheduled to open in April and early May have all delayed their openings; in fact, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs have delayed opening up their barn areas until further notice.” With the majority of racing shut down, three “major” thoroughbred tracks have remained open, which includes Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park. Oaklawn Park is in Arizona, while the remaining two are in Florida, with Gulfstream having hosted the 2020 Florida Derby just over a week ago, with Tiz the Law winning easily in front of zero spectators. Is that something that is capable of being maintained? “Of the three it appears in the short term they will be allowed to complete their season,” Haight said. “That said, Oaklawn Park is scheduled to close for the season on May 2 and Tampa Bay Downs May 3. Of the major tracks that would leave just Gulfstream Park — located in South Florida — racing although officials at Santa Anita in California are feverishly trying to that track reopened.” With the lack of any major sport taking place during the spread of coronavirus, increased majoring on horse racing has followed suit. Though Haight isn’t 100 percent sure that has to do with there being no baseball, basketball, hockey, etc... “I’m not sure I can attribute the increased handle numbers to the lack of sporting events. Rather I think the lack of competition from many or any racetracks running at the same time,’ he said. “I can tell you at Batavia Downs Racetrack our biggest total handle of the week is Wednesday night, which I’m sure surprises many people. Yes, on Saturday night we by far draw our biggest crowds but due to so many other tracks racing we don’t see the big off-track wagering numbers that we see on Wednesdays. In fact, it can be as high as 50 percent greater than the other race nights and this is all due to the lack of competition.” However, there may still be a correlation nonetheless between the lack of gambling options and the increased interest in horse racing betting. “Yes racetracks have reported increases in handle due to the lack of competition. Gulfstream Park saw an all-sources handle for the Florida Derby card, March 28, a record $53,555,529, eclipsing the previous mark of $49,909,070 handled in 2018,” Haight said. “And remember this number was attained with not one person wagering in the grandstands as the races were closed to the public. That’s truly remarkable.” There have also been other tracks across the country that have reported huge increases, including Fonner Park in Nebraska and Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma, with the former still up and running without spectators. Will Rogers Downs saw a 657.5% increase in the March 2020 handle over March 2019 with betting up nearly $13.7 million from the same period last year, according to Haight, while Fonner Park, saw a 272.7% increase in March handle, up more than $8.4 million. Specifically with Batavia Downs, they have also seen an up-tick in wagering in the recent weeks, for whatever the reason may be. In 2014 the Downs introduced Batavia Bets, an online wagering platform that has continued to be highly success, while Haight says it took in nearly $200,000 in wagers last week alone. Haight has also seen a small increase in the number of signups for Batavia Bets since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, with horse racing being virtually the only sport still running that people can gamble on. Moreover, cable networks such as Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports have continued to show live racing on television, including the Florida Derby in late March. “And keep in mind that’s with many of our customers most popular racetracks current closed,” Haight said in the increased wagering at Batavia Downs. “When you take Aqueduct, Meadowlands and Buffalo Raceway off the board it is going to have an effect on wagering numbers. We’re very pleased with the success of Batavia Bets.” For Haight and the rest of the world of racing — and life in general — everything at the moment is simply a waiting game. And the effects of the last month are something that the world will likely never fully get over. “COVID-19 has changed the landscape of horse racing - that’s for sure. We are living in unprecedented times and the safety of our patrons, employees, and horsemen remain a top priority,” Haight said. It remains to be seen how long it will take to get back to normal and what the new normal will indeed be. “The effects of this pandemic have been felt worldwide and in all sports,” he added. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on our website, social media and via press releases in regards to our live racing product which is scheduled to begin on July 22. We’ll be working very closely with the New York State Gaming Commission and the Western New York Harness Horseman Association on this process.” Here’s to hoping at least part, if not all, of the upcoming Downs season will go on as usual. By Nate Rider Reprinted with permission of The Daily News Online

Columbus, OH – NJ.com’s Keith Sargeant examines the impact of the coronavirus on a number of harness racing horsemen at Yonkers Raceway and the possible effect it had on the outbreak of the virus in New Jersey in his Sunday (April 5) story, “N.J.’s coronavirus outbreak may have started at a Yonkers racetrack.  Horsemen are still unravelling the mystery” posted on NJ.com. Sargeant recalls driver Pearly Allen’s difficult battle with COVID-19 and reports on the deaths of John Brennan, the first N.J. resident to die from the virus, and four members of the Fusco family as well as the illnesses of other horsemen, including SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo and Yonkers’ leading driver Jason Bartlett. To read the complete NJ.com story, click here. Check out valuable information for horsemen and the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic in the USTA COVID-19 Resource Center…here. USTA Communications Department

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (March 16, 2020) - Saratoga Casino Hotel announced today that it is temporarily shutting down effective as of 8pm tonight. Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at the property, Saratoga Casino Hotel officials said they have decided to close after consulting with the New York State Gaming Commission. The casino and simulcast wagering areas of the property will close, however the hotel will remain open and harness racing will resume as scheduled on Wednesday, March 18 without fans in the stands. Fans can wager remotely on the races on SaratogaBets.com or on any other New York State approved online waging platform. Morton's The Steakhouse will also remain open offering take-out and delivery service between noon-8pm daily. Employees impacted by the shutdown will receive 2 weeks' pay during the suspension. "We will continue to monitor the situation and carefully follow the advice and guidance of the state and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)." said Alex Tucker, General Manager of Saratoga Casino Hotel. Madison Winters Marketing Coordinator

The field for the Fillies and Mares Open was reduced to three participants after a host of harness racing scratches on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. In a race offering win betting only, Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) was the betting favorite in a feature that went for a purse of $15,000. Bontz N (Shawn Gray), a nominee for Pacing Mare of the Year at the Spa in 2019, wound up getting the pocket trip to Miss Irish Rose A in what was her second start back this season. Invader Fool Me Again (Mitch Cushing) got away third in the compact field of three as Miss Irish Rose A cruised through a first half in 58.3. Bontz N got geared up to go around the final turn and cruised past Miss Irish Rose A in the stretch to record the victory in 1:56. Miss Irish Rose A was the runner-up and has now finished first or second in all four of her tries in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa this season. Bontz N, who paid $4.60 to win, is owned by April Aldrich of Greenfield Center, NY and is trained by Gary Levine who came into the day atop the trainer standings after about a month of the racing season at the Spa. Live racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a 5:00pm first post.   Mike Sardella

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