It Only Took a Pandemic to Help Horse Racing Gain New Fans

Written by:
Mary Montgomery
Published on:

Our friend Michael Dempsey of TurnNSport reports on a very bad spell for the horse racing industry that runs the gamut from equine deaths at Santa Anita to a disqualification in the Kentucky Derby.  This happened in 2019 and 2020 certainly got off to a bad start courtesy of a series of indictments tied to a doping scheme. But, as Dempsey points out, the coronavirus pandemic has helped draw in new fans simply because it's the only sport still taking place.  

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"Now we are down to a handful of racetracks still running, all without fans—Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, Fonner Park, Will Rogers Downs, Los Alamitos, Remington Park and Oaklawn Park.

"Each track has put in strict protocols, and so far, have been able to continue to run, giving horseplayers something to do while nearly the entire country is sheltered in place.

"It also has given sports bettors something to wager on. We have seen an uptick in sports bettors making the transition over to playing the ponies.

"With sports networks starving for programming, we have seen Fox Sports and NBC Sports Network pick up hours of horse racing coverage. Many bettors looking for action have taken the plunge."

Due to Covid-19, the Kentucky Derby has been postponed from the first week in May to the first week in September (Labor Day Weekend).

"Just for this year. 200 for the win, 100 second, 50 third, 25 fourth. This will grow interest in the “stepsister” classics, increase early wagering, build drama going into the Derby leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.

“What if the Preakness was held on a Sunday? July 2. Black-Eyed Susan day could be moved to Saturday to allow for more fans to attend and a higher TV audience. Traditionally, the Championships at Wimbledon would be taking place this weekend. Cancelled because of the Coronavirus, the Preakness may pick up new fans from the tennis audience.

“The 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes could take place five weeks later, Saturday, August 8. This should allow for a television deal between NYRA and NBC as the sports schedule will not be as crowded. With the Kentucky Derby scheduled for Saturday, September 5, this will give contenders five weeks of rest and training.

“The Derby would be the crescendo to a long-awaited summer of racing. 20 of the best 3-year-old Thoroughbreds.”

The organizations said in a joint statement that finding a new date for the Preakness "will take into consideration all of the recommended best practices from local and governmental health authorities to protect our community.”

No decision has yet been made on the Belmont Stakes, which is scheduled for June 6 at Belmont Park in New York.

More Horse Racing News:

- Mary Montgomery,

Horse Racing News

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