Pennsylvania tracks are still hot-to-trot, with horse racing through December at four of the state’s six racecourses.
One track is even closing out the year by adding Grade 3 stakes dates with guaranteed paydays beginning at $100,000.
And why not?
Keystone state racinos saw strong horse betting action in 2021 following COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions a year before.
Pennsylvania Derby record day
This year’s Pennsylvania Derby and and eight other stakes races on Sept. 21 posted a record $13.2 million handle, smashing the prior handle record of $10.3 million set in 2014.
Industry publication BloodHorse, citing the Derby and also an increase in the production of PA-bred mares, commented:
“In some ways the current atmosphere is better than ever.”
PA horse racing December schedule
Pennsylvania casinos with horse racing that are still running horse races in December are::
- Parx is adding seven stakes races in December. The thoroughbreds race Monday to Wednesday
- Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Race Track has standardbreds running Wednesday through Fridays, but not during Christmas week
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course runs thoroughbreds Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday until the last two weeks of the year. Then Penn National takes off Christmas Eve Friday and New Year’s Eve Friday
- Hollywood Casino at Meadows Race Course races standardbreds Tuesday through Friday until Dec. 17. Then the schedule is Tuesday to Thursday until the end of the year
The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and Presque Isle Downs & Casino have finished their meets for the season.
How to bet on horse racing online
There are also online options for betting on horse racing such as TVG and TwinSpires.
A new off-track betting option is scheduled to open by mid-December in Malvern at a planned Chickie’s & Pete’s , plus there is the South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook near the stadium complex. Both OTBs have sports betting kiosks.
Betting on horses relatively straightforward and can be done in-person or online.
Here’s how to place a bet:
- Designate track.
- Pick a race.
- Decide money you would like to wager.
- Decide what type of wager you would like to place: win, place or show.
- Select the horse or horses based on their program number.
Graded races added at Parx Racing
With money remaining in the racing pot, Parx has added seven graded races to their schedule to close out December.
First up is the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes on Dec. 7. The race is open to PA-bred two-year-olds and offers a 25% bonus if the sire is also a PA horse. The horses and odds have not yet posted, though nominations have closed.
Next comes two big days on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, with nominations not closing until Dec. 8, so the fields are in flux.
The three stakes races on Dec. 28 all have a Christmas theme. There’s the $100,000 Kris Kringle for three-year-olds and up at a mile and seventy yards. The $100,000 Mrs. Claus for fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, at seven furlongs And finally the $100,000 Blitzen for three-year-old and up sprinters.
Juveniles make a showing on Dec. 29 with a pair of stakes races for two-year-olds. First, there is the $100,000 Parx Futurity at seven furlongs for fillies. Then the seven-furlong $100,000 Parx Juvenile for colts and geldings.
Each day the first post is 12:10 p.m. Gates open at 11:15 a.m. Admission is free.
Thoughts on year-round horse racing
Pete Peterson, president of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association, thinks the stakes races will draw a broader audience to PA racing since there are few active meets at this time of the year.
He said adding higher dollar stakes races at the end of the season when many people are on break has happened before and that “should attract attention from around the country” given fewer racing options now.
“December is definitely a tough time for racing,” said trainer Michael Catalano, who aded the year has turned out well for racing in PA. “Everyone has had a good year.”
He’s thinking of running Hopeful Treasure in the sprint stakes after a recent 18-1 upset win at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York.
Still, the trainer has some reservations about the “old guard” in racing and an overreliance on year-round racing.
Catalano thinks staging festival events, such as the Pennsylvania Derby, might better serve fans and attract new customers who “can’t come out or watch live every day.”
Lead photo by Katie Kohler