By Dick Jerardi
I have been in the prediction business pretty much my entire adult life. My process has been altered through the years, but a few basics are unchanged: try to compile as much information as possible before arriving at a conclusion.
Trying to predict anything during this pandemic, much less when racing will return at Parx, has required me to alter even those basics. Hard to come to a conclusion when the information consists of so many moving parts.
After being on a call last week with several representatives from Gov. Wolf’s office as well as three representatives of the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania, I can say that the governor’s office clearly understands that horse racing can return safely in the state.
My role, as somebody who has covered racing on the national scene for 35 years and has visited every major race track in the country, was to explain how safely racing was conducted in Florida and Arkansas all winter and spring, how racing is now being conducted safely in Maryland, Kentucky, Texas and California among other states and how racing will be conducted safely during the first week of June in New York and Ohio.
I was also able to explain how the race track world works, that there are actually far more people working on the backstretch in the morning than will be needed to conduct racing in the afternoon, that since everything will be outside, it will be quite easy to comply with protocols that have worked so well at all the other tracks.
When I got off the call, I felt the governor’s representatives had a much better understanding of how and why live racing should return as soon as possible.
When Bucks County goes to yellow on June 5, I got every sense that the governor’s office would approve having live racing return to Parx without fans.
From the start of the pandemic, PTHA president Sal DeBunda and executive director Mike Ballezzi have been working long hours behind the scenes with the horsemen and for the horsemen. That remains true now during the final stages before reopening, with Sal and Mike trying to get live racing back as soon as possible while talking regularly to their members, officials from the governor’s office, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission and Parx administrators, all of whom are playing a part in the restart.
If I am right about what the governor’s office is going to do and I think I am, once the racing commission officially approves the track reopening, it would then be up to Parx management when live racing would actually begin.
The Parx racing office needs to be re-assembled, a condition book must be written and distributed so entries can be taken and racing can resume.
My guess is live racing returns on a Monday. Could it be as soon as June 8? Probably a longshot because there are so many moving parts.
The 15th is more feasible, with June 22 being about the latest opening I could envision.
So we are talking somewhere around 100 days from the time the track closed for live racing to when it is going to reopen, a time that must seem like an eternity to everybody who has mounting expenses and no revenue. I wish I could make the time go faster or be able to say with certainty the exact date when there will be racing again at Parx. I can’t do that, but I can say we are much closer to the end than the beginning.