Following West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement that he would permit the resumption of horse racing without spectators, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has announced its intention to resume live racing May 14.
Another track in West Virginia, Mountaineer Park, announced plans to begin racing May 31 via Twitter. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mountaineer had been scheduled to open April 26 for a season lasting until Dec. 2.
Both tracks have their racing purses supplemented by casino revenue. The casinos are currently closed.
“We couldn’t be happier to resume live racing here at Charles Town and do it in what we believe to be a safe environment,” said Charles Town’s vice president of racing and sports operations, Erich Zimny. “Thank you to the governor’s office and West Virginia Racing Commission for working with the stakeholders to make it reality.”
In addition to conducting its races without spectators, Charles Town will continue its live racing under a set of protocols developed to protect the health and safety of those present.
Until further notice, Charles Town’s receiving barn will be closed, with the only horses permitted on track grounds being those stabled in West Virginia and West Virginia-breds. Trainers not allocated stalls at Charles Town with such a horse who would like to race at the track must make arrangements to ship in to the stalls of a trainer on the grounds after receiving permission from the racing secretary. No trainers or staff will be permitted on the grounds other than for those trainers allocated stalls.
In addition to the restriction on horse travel, the only jockeys to be named on horses and be present in the jockeys’ room are locally based riders, defined as those with at least 50% of their mounts this year at Charles Town, which ceased racing March 21 amid COVID-19 concerns. Any riders moving from state to state will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
Many of the typical protocols seen at other venues, including temperature checks for people entering the grounds, required protective coverings for individuals’ mouths and noses, and the restriction of access to the grounds to only essential personnel will be some of those in effect.
Training has continued on the Charles Town main track, which has had its share of activity despite the lack of purse money. In an effort to defray the burden, members of the Charles Town racing community have been able to work together with vendors, distributors, and the Thoroughbred Charities of America to secure nearly 30 tons of free feed and feed supplements for distribution to trainers remaining on the grounds.
“We’d all like to sincerely say thank you to not only the Charles Town HBPA and Aftercare Charles Town for their dedicated efforts in working with the track and horsemen, but also to the TCA and our vendors for being able to provide at least some relief to those in our barn area. It was the quintessential team effort,” Zimny said.
Charles Town anticipates publishing conditions for its return to racing in the coming days and plans on taking entries May 11 for the resumption of racing May 14.