Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs are among several locations currently holding races without fans in attendance, according to a tracker from Twin Spires, an online sportsbook owned by Churchill Downs. At least 14 tracks are still running races and taking bets in the coming days.
With most other sporting events halted due to concerns about mass gatherings and potential transmission of coronavirus, the horse racing tracks still in operation have cashed in on the lull. Aqueduct race track in New York took more than $17 million in wagers last weekend, while Santa Anita took more than $11 million, ESPN reported.
Horse racing’s continued operation during the outbreak, at a time when other sporting events are untenable, is "a tremendous responsibility, and it's an opportunity, given the last 14 months, to put our best foot forward," Mike Willman, Santa Anita's director of publicity, told ESPN.
Key horse racing partners have also seen a benefit. Horse racing broadcaster TVG in wagers on its betting platform last weekend, while FanDuel’s horse racing app saw a spike in downloads, according to the New York Times.
Not all tracks have kept races on schedule during the outbreak. A long list of other tracks has canceled live races until further notice. The Triple Crown, horse racing’s premier event series, could still be in jeopardy.
Churchill Downs opted to delay the Kentucky Derby from May to September as a precautionary measure. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the state’s racetracks to close this week and said the Preakness Stakes would also be delayed until September. The Belmont Stakes is expected to follow suit.
The NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS and many other sports organizations have suspended their seasons until further notice. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended cancellation of mass gatherings due to coronavirus.
In other parts of the world, horse racing operators are faced with the same dilemma. The BMW Hong Kong Derby is expected to proceed on Sunday, while the United Arab Emirates’ decision to suspend all sporting events raised questions about whether the Dubai World Cup would take place as expected on March 28.