Emerald Downs president Phil Ziegler said May 7 he is starting to see plans for the 2020 racing season in Washington state starting to come together and hopes the racetrack will begin racing June 20.
“The governor’s reopening plan placed professional sports without audience participation in Phase 3. Horse racing and baseball are specifically mentioned,” Ziegler said. “Based on the current timetable of at least three weeks between phases the state could begin to enter Phase 3 on June 15. In Phase 4 there are no gathering limits, and we would be open to the public.”
Emerald Downs Racing and the Muckleshoot Tribe sent a revised date request letter to the Washington Horse Racing Commission for 44 days of racing June 20 through Oct. 4 with exact race days and post times to be determined. The track was originally scheduled to race 63 days for its 25th season, from April 18 through Sept. 20.
Ziegler said he anticipating operating at least the first four weeks under Phase 3, running on Mondays and Tuesdays at noon beginning June 22. Once Phase 4 begins, he added, Emerald Downs would transition to its traditional three-day weekend schedule. Director of racing Bret Anderson is working on a revised stakes schedule that will include multiple races for each category, Ziegler added.
“Running without the public is very challenging for our business and the sooner we can have the public here the better,” Ziegler said. “We do not have a return date for simulcasting and other activities such as banquets and entertainment but it’s likely to be when Phase 4 begins. During a typical season we have over 500 employees. For many it’s a summer part-time job and for others it’s been their full-time career. Many of these jobs only can exist when we are open to the public.
“For everyone working in the stable area you have done a terrific job of staying healthy,” Ziegler continued. “To clarify, we are following the CDC recommended mask/face covering policy. Masks are required when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Please always be aware of your surroundings and do not take any chances with your health and the health of others. That will always be our top priority. And needless to say, if we have health issues in the stable area our race meet would be in jeopardy.”
Beginning April 1, no new horsemen or horses had been permitted to enter Emerald Downs’ backside for at least 30 days. The track remains open for training five days a week (closed Monday and Thursday) from 7-11 a.m.