During his Thursday press briefing, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced that the state's racetracks will resume racing May 14. No spectators will be allowed to attend the races.
“In regard to horse racing, on May 14 we will start spectator-less, without people, horse racing,” Justice said. “It will be able to resume at that time. It takes a couple of weeks of active training and conditioning before it's safe for the horses, so they will be starting back very, very soon in preparation for us to have spectator-less horse racing.”
Charles Town last raced Mar. 21. In March, the track announced that the Charles Town Classic, originally scheduled to be run Apr. 18, had been postponed and will be run at a later date.
The Mountaineer Park meet was slated to begin Apr. 26.
“This is very good news,” said Jeff Runco, Charles Town's leading trainer. “The HPBA had been working with (the governor's office) and talking to them over the last few weeks. They wanted to make sure everything was going in the right direction with the virus and that the numbers were going in the right direction. They wanted to be safe before they decided to let us start back racing.”
West Virginia horsemen will also be keeping an eye on when patrons will be allowed back into the casinos at Mountaineer and Charles Town. The vast majority of purse money comes from casino revenues, and if the casinos stay closed, purses could take a major hit.
“We have a good bit built up in the purse account and we're good to go for now,” Runco said. “We will have to be careful with purses and watch what is going on. Hopefully, things will keep improving and they can get the casinos going again shortly.”
Canterbury Park officials, with the support of the Minnesota Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, meanwhile, announced Thursday that the horse stabling area will open in a limited capacity on Friday, May 8 to accept horses from racetracks and other facilities around the country that will close soon. Track officials plan to announce a revised live racing schedule in the coming weeks.