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Saturday, August 15, 2020

PHTA President Sal DeBunda updates efforts to resume racing in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association President Sal DeBunda recently outlined the roadmap for getting back to racing in Pennsylvania, particularly at Parx.

Sal DeBundaSal DeBunda"The big question is when Parx will reopen, and we don't have any answer for that," said DeBunda. "What I can tell you is what the roadmap looks like."

"Governor Wolf has come up with what I call a zone approach. He has a red zone, a yellow zone and a green zone.

Until May 8, we are all in a red zone. To get from red to yellow, there will have to be less than 50 cases of covid 19 per 100,000 people for 14 days. In the yellow zone, certain businesses will be allowed to reopen.

For Philadelphia and Bucks County, which is where Parx is, right now that's a long road. In Philadelphia, there are 500 cases per 100,000, and in Bucks County there are 350 cases per 100,000 people, so to get to 50 is going to be some task.

If we get to yellow, we can resume racing, but casinos are not allowed to open, even if we get to yellow.

Right now, the casinos, as owners of the tracks, have not committed to opening the tracks until the casinos are open, so we have a chicken and the egg problem that we need to deal with.. Even if we get through the zone issue, the casino operators, who own the racetracks, may not allow the racetracks to open.

To overcome the time frame that we see in the southeast part of Pennsylvania versus the other parts of the state with the zone approach, because of how far we have to go, we're seeking a state wide exemption for racing to resume without patrons.

Wolf has already granted state wide exemptions for construction, golf courses and  marinas.

 

WOLF HAS indicated that he's considering an exemption for horse racing, but he hasn't yet made a decision..

I think we have a good story to tell there because we're going to be without patrons, and we've already had an operation there that has been running and has been running without any positive virus indications.

But the problem is, we still need to get beyond the operators of the racetrack, so there's still a lot to be done.

We need both the state wide exemption and the race track operators agreement to open.

Other states like New York and Maryland are planning to open without patrons as early as May 15.

Other Pennsylvania tracks could actually be opened under the zone approach even if we don't get the state wide exemption.

For example Presque Isle and other tracks in the western part of the state are in zones that already meet the standards.

We could then see Penn National somewhere along the line be opened before Parx.

But the Parx would be in a more difficult zone unless we get that exemption, so it's important we get that.

We could be in the position where states around us have racing, and even other tracks in Pennsylvania could have racing, and Parx still doesn't have racing unless we get that exemptions.

I think we have a good possibility of getting that exemption, but then we still have to get the casino operators to allow tracks to open.

Most tracks will not permit ship-ins or limit entries to tracks or farms within their state.

So Parx horsemen won't have any other options if the government doesn't allow this track to open.

Assuming we get the state wide exemption and the casinos allow tracks to open, this is what it would look like.

There would be no patrons and no owners permitted. The grandstand would be closed.

Probably there would be no claiming for at least 30 days. We don't want people hanging around the paddock to look at horse for possible claiming. We want to keep it as safe as possible.

Probably we'd have no ship-ins or ship-outs of horses. That means you have to fill the card with horses that are on the grounds.

We're working with Joe Wilson to make sure we can bring the horses in before we open so that there actually are enough horses on the grounds to fill the races.

The good result of that, no ship-ins or ship-outs, means all the money that's being given out will be going to the horsemen at the track.

We're still discussing whether the 40 percent owner's bonus will be paid - would it be less or not paid at all. We're working with the breeders organization and the state about that.

Probably all overnight stakes and all Pa-bred stakes would be cancelled. All the graded stakes would probably be canceled . You can postpone them for one year and not lose your rating.

We won't close for three weeks in August. We'll probably run three days a week.

That's probably what we're going to look like when we get back to racing, but when that will be, we don't know.

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