The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission May 20 approved a revised request from Delaware Park to run a 65-day meet from June 17 through Oct. 17.
The track was scheduled to open May 17 and race through Oct. 31. State-ordered restrictions brought about by coronavirus (COVID-19) forced postponement of opening day, though Delaware Park was able to open its barn area March 15 as scheduled.
Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice President of Racing and Finance for the track, told the DTRC the new schedule came about after discussions with the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and both parties were in agreement.
Given the fact its casino has been closed since mid-March, Delaware Park officials project an overall decrease in purse revenue of 30%. Purses earn a dedicated share of revenue from video lottery terminals, table games and sports betting.
DeLucia said the track and horsemen’s group agreed to trim days in order to keep average purses as close to pre-COVID-19 projections as possible. DTHA Executive Director Bessie Gruwell said there was discussion that should revenue be higher than projected, days could be added later in the meet.
Delaware Gov. John Carney earlier announced that the state’s three racetrack casinos could reopen beginning June 1. DeLucia said Delaware Park has submitted a plan to the Delaware Lottery and the governor and is targeting a June 1 reopening with various COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place.
When asked about live racing without spectators, DeLucia said the governor’s plan allows tracks to race without on-track patrons permitted. But he said Delaware Park submitted a plan to the state Department of Agriculture that includes protocols for racing without patrons or with patrons in attendance.
“The casinos can have race books and sports books open (in the Phase 1 reopening),” DeLucia said, “so this still needs to be worked out.”
John Mooney, Executive Director of Racing at the track, said there currently are about 200 horses on the grounds with an expectation of about 1,000 as the meet nears. He said the number “changes by the minute” because of uncertainty with schedules at other tracks or announcements of other tracks reopening in the near future. Before the virus shutdown in mid-March, Delaware Park had received about 1,800 stall applications, he said.
Heading into the 2020 meet, Gruwell said the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program, which provides purse bonuses in all overnight races and some stakes, has a balance of $1.19 million. The program will continue to offer 50% bonuses (25% for the owner and 25% for the certifier) on purses earned from first through fifth place.