Day At The Track

Harness racing tracks likely down to 1

01:42 AM 23 Mar 2020 NZDT
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Cal Expo harness racing
Cal Expo harness racing

After five closure announcements in the past 48 hours, a track in Sacramento, California, is the last with plans to remain open of the 18 in the United States that had harness racing prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Schick, the general manager of Cal Expo harness racing, told ESPN three hours before its 6 p.m. Pacific post time Friday that its plan was to have racing without fans in attendance.

Earlier in the day, thoroughbred racing continued with no spectators at California's Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields.

Schick said Saturday that Cal Expo plans, subject to California Horse Racing Board legal review, to shift from holding races Friday and Saturday nights to Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3:05 p.m. Pacific, effective March 24. The meet is scheduled to run through late April.

The reason? "There are no tracks running in the 6-10 p.m. Eastern time zone on those days," Schick said, as it leaves Cal Expo that simulcast window on TVG to itself.

Tracks in Saratoga, New York, and Northfield, Ohio, suspended harness racing Friday. Saratoga's suspension is to begin after Sunday's racing card, with Saturday's schedule canceled. John Matarazzo, Saratoga's director of racing operations, said Saturday the restrictions it had placed on shipping horses in to race necessitated picking one day to run this weekend instead of two, in order to put together a card with an acceptable number of races with full fields.

"I hate to see the closures -- they will hurt a lot of people -- but the nation's priority has to be containing and stopping the spread of the virus," Mike Tanner, CEO of the U.S. Trotting Association, told ESPN.

"Our sport knows that firsthand and in a very painful way," Tanner said, adding, "We'll work to help be part of the solution."

Harness racing trainers and brothers Carmine and Vincent Fusco and former trainer John Brennan all died in the past two weeks after contracting the virus. The Fuscos' mother and sister also died after contracting the virus and other siblings remain hospitalized.

By William Weinbaum

Reprinted with permission of ESPN

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