Adding to the other racetracks opening or reopening around North America, horseplayers get another option Friday when Texas’ Lone Star Park begins its spring/summer meet. At the outset, the track will run spectator-free.
Located north of Dallas in Grand Prairie, Texas, Lone Star Park was scheduled to open April 16 before the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled that date. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on Monday allowing the state’s racetracks to reopen as early as Friday. But Abbott’s order stood out for what else it did – allow fans inside. The order allows facilities to admit up to 25% of their capacity.
On Friday, however, Lone Star Park will run without fans, and with only essential personnel. Lone Star Park’s off-track betting parlor, meanwhile, will open before fans are allowed inside. It’s unclear when the racetrack’s OTB facility will open.
Texas law doesn’t permit advanced deposit wagering (ADW). Under the 1986 Texas Racing Act, “wagering may be conducted only by an association within its enclosures.”
Race entries for Friday’s card began Wednesday amid a scramble as Texas Racing Commission (TRC) officials and Lone Star Park officials hustle to put together the day’s card. The TRC met for more than three hours Tuesday, trying to move the pieces into place for a workable card.
Lone Star Park has an existing condition book that officials will use and, according to the Daily Racing Form, Friday’s entries are based on “Day 1” of that book. First post is Friday at 3 p.m. CDT.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association tweeted Tuesday that horsemen can enter races via telephone, making this opening weekend a true work in progress. Once entered, horsemen face strict access guidelines that include temperature checks, enforced social-distancing guidelines, and limits on personnel.
Entries for Friday (Race Day #1) in the first book (here: https://t.co/xG8pfRnIhg) will be taken tomorrow (Wednesday 5/20) by phone only.
First weekend schedule is below; a schedule for the remainder of the meet will be announced soon. pic.twitter.com/KfuLcBvQRJ
— Texas Thoroughbred (@TTAtexas) May 19, 2020
Lone Star Park’s original meet was scheduled for 44 days – from April 16 through July 19. Scott Wells, Lone Star Park’s president, asked the TRC during Tuesday’s meeting to be flexible in scheduling.
Numerous Agendas Come Into Play
When it comes to reopening his state amid the coronavirus pandemic, Abbott is one of the most aggressive governors in the country. But the state’s racing industry has its own agenda for a quick resumption that goes beyond the obvious financial ramifications behind the care and feeding of the horses.
A new state law enacted in 2020 puts aside portions of existing taxes on equine goods and services. That revenue stream goes directly to the racing and breeding industry.
The DRF reported that the new income boosted Sam Houston Race Park’s handle by more than 40%. A quick racing resumption means the revenue stream will continue to flow. Sam Houston played host to the state’s last race, on March 22.
Lone Star Park opened its stables for training on May 6. It was the last sports facility in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to close, shuttering its OTB parlor on March 16.