Pony Roundup 3: PA Racing Schedules Shortened, Unsavory Headlines Capture PETA’s Attention

Posted By Kevin Shelly on March 19, 2021 - Last Updated on March 20, 2021

Let’s begin this month’s roundup with a look at the schedule of racing meets around Pennsylvania.

The biggest racing adjustment coming out of COVID-19 pressure was the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission allowing a nearly 50% reduction of the racing dates at Presque Isle Downs.

That’s just 52 racing days, down from the originally proposed 100.

Todd Mostoller, the Erie track’s horsemen leader, explained at Presque Isle, “Casino slot revenue has not recovered.” A stream of about 10 percent of slot revenue funds the purses at race tracks.

The abbreviated meet now does not begin until July 5, rather than in May as was planned.

Mostoller predicted radically reduced meets could happen elsewhere if the lower slot revenue numbers persist across other gaming properties.

Ironically, the popularity of betting on horse racing without going to the track had risen during the pandemic.

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Horse racing dates reduced overall

For example, as to live racing in PA, The Meadows Racetrack & Casino applied for 185 days, down from 195 in its 2020 application. The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono has 137 days, down two from 2020.

Too soon to say yet if anything as radical in terms of schedule trimming comes up at the next PA Horse Racing Commission meeting March 30 as the agenda is not yet set.

Parx OTBs to Chickie’s & Pete’s to be determined

Another pending item which could come up at the meeting are petitions seeking to move the pari-mutuel operations of three Parx off-track wagering outlets into Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurants. Under PA law, sports betting would also be allowed as an add-on to the OTW outlets.

A zoning decision about one of the moves in South Philadelphia is still pending, but there is no date yet for a conclusion to consider a required variance.

Mohegan Sun Pocono racing

Pocono resumed racing on Feb. 6, and Oct. 30 is the closing day.

Racing in March runs Saturday through Monday. From April through September, racing happens four days a week, from Saturday through Tuesday. October racing is Saturday through Monday.

Meadows racing meet

The Meadows calendar called for racing from Jan. 6 – Dec. 30 with two one-week breaks in April and September for track maintenance.

Racing runs three days a week – Wednesday through Friday – through March. Then four days a week with Saturday added for the remainder of the year.

Parx racing schedule

Racing at the suburban Philadelphia track goes off three days a week. Dates are Monday through Wednesday, and the meet is already underway.

Before the pandemic, Parx ran on a Saturday through Tuesday schedule.

Penn National meet

The Grantville, PA Penn National track runs only two days a week this year and is already underway. Race days are Wednesday and Friday.

Harrah’s racing

Harrah’s resumes racing April 2 and runs Wednesday through Friday until the end of summer. Then there are just two days of racing, Thursday and Friday, for five weeks, and then it is again Wednesday to Friday the rest of the year.

Horse deaths reverberate

And in other horse racing industry news, racing deaths at a Penn National track in West Virginia and a grotesque incident overseas involving a prominent Irish trainer have sent shock waves through the community. The Penn track incident was not in PA but Penn has its HQ in PA, operates two PA tracks, and the gaming company’s origin stems from racing.

The Animal Welfare Association claims eight horses running at Hollywood Casino’s Charles Town Race Course have been euthanized so far this year. PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has recently bought some Penn stock to voice concerns at shareholder meetings.

Irish trainer Gordon Elliot disgraced himself and damaged the industry worldwide after being photographed astride a dead horse, talking on a cell phone, and flashing V-sign.

Elliott has since apologized. Racing regulators hit him with a fine of $17,900. He cannot race for six months and his racing license suspended. But the residual damage remains huge and spreads far beyond Ireland.

Federal regulatory plan hit with a lawsuit

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Texas in an attempt to prevent the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 from being implemented, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Pennsylvania’s NHBP has supported the legal challenge, according to the Review-Journal, but support for the challenge is not universal among state affiliates of the NHBP.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Club and National Thoroughbred Racing Association have denounced the move.

The law requires set uniform national horse racing medication and racetrack safety standards in the 38 states that allow gambling on horse racing.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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