Although most of the country is only a few weeks into closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the racing industry is already hurting badly, according to a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Officials and horsemen at Canterbury Park, which is scheduled to begin its meet mid-May, have watched the turn of events at other racetracks with growing anxiety.
Top Canterbury trainer Robertino Diodoro is still running horses at Oaklawn Park, which he called “a lifesaver” but he said that with more tracks cancelling racing, he worries about how long owners will hold onto horses.
“I don't think I've ever been this stressed,” he told reporter Rachel Blount. “If it doesn't turn real quick, there are going to be a lot of people in trouble.”
“I've never been so nervous when I see an owner's phone number come up on my phone. I'm scared they're going to call me and say they've lost their shorts in business, or in the stock market, and they're going to have to sell their horses. It's a mess.”
Diodoro had a string at Turf Paradise which he had to move when the track announced a shutdown March 14. He shipped those horses to Sam Houston, only to learn it was closed Sunday. (Turf Paradise has since announced horses will not be required to leave.)
Andrew Offerman, vice president of racing operations for Canterbury, says he and others are worried about the welfare of horses that may be stuck with nowhere to go or whose owners can suddenly no longer afford their upkeep.
Richard Grunder, who announces at Tampa Bay and fills in at Canterbury, has been calling races to an empty grandstand at Tampa Bay, which is holding races with no spectators. Grunder said he believed the track was losing money by continuing to race without its usual on-track handle. Canterbury officials anticipated they could afford to run for a couple of weekends with no fans, but it wouldn't be economically feasible after that.
Read more at the Minneapolis Star Tribune
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