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Youth Track Review: Ocean Downs

Published: July 27, 2020 1:19 pm ET

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Ryder Skinner, the original USHWA Youth member, has promoted his favourite summertime destination for the July USHWA Youth Racetrack Review. The 13-year old Harrington, Delaware resident is a dedicated harness racing fan and participant. He enjoys helping his parents, Jason and Susan Skinner, with the family racing stable, and is a 2019 Harness Horse Youth Foundation program graduate.

Ryder's involvement in the media side of the sport has become increasingly visible, as well. He recently had an article published in the USTA's 'Youth Beats' magazine about his experience presenting at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards in Orlando, Florida. When Matt Sparacino, the president of the USHWA Delaware Valley chapter, asked the young horseman if he would like to share what makes Berlin, Maryland's Ocean Downs a welcoming place for younger racing fans, he was happy to contribute. The track has been in operation since 1949, changed ownership several times, and once operated under the name 'Delmarva Downs.' What is consistent is the atmosphere and accessibility that Ryder Skinner outlines in his review, which appears below.

Standardbreds in behind the starter at Ocean Downs.

July's USHWA Youth Racetrack Review: Ocean Downs

The word 'fun' is defined as enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. When I think of fun, being a horseman's son, I instantly think of harness racing. One of my favourite tracks to watch harness racing is Ocean Downs. I have been watching live harness racing at Ocean Downs for nine years.

Ocean Downs offers so much more than other tracks. Even though there is a casino on site, the racetrack venue is very family friendly. Since Ocean Downs is only a few miles from the beach, it is a popular pit stop for many families on vacation. As soon as you get out of the car, you feel the atmosphere and know it is going to be a fun night.

The setup of the paddock allows fans to see the horses coming on and off the track, and you get to see the grooms and trainers hard at work. My family and I have always stopped on the way down and grabbed a pizza or subs, before we pull up to the trackside fence and catch all the behind the scenes action.

The winner's circle also is extremely accessible, making it convenient to hop in with the winning horse and get your picture taken. Food, restrooms, and racing are so easy to take advantage of at Ocean Downs, making it a terrific summertime destination. COVID-19 has limited fan accessibility to enjoy live harness racing, but Ocean Downs is a track I cannot wait to visit when restrictions are lifted.

Standardbreds in behind the starter at Ocean Downs.

The 2020 Ocean Downs season got underway on July 6, with four nights of racing a week through September 4. Racing continues until September 19, without on-track spectators until further notice, which will be announced on the track's website ( Here's hoping that Ryder Skinner and racing fans of all ages will be able to safely enjoy the trackside experience this summer.

Know a young harness racing fan and/or participant who would like to share their story about the youth-friendly elements of their favourite track? The USHWA Youth Membership Committee welcomes submissions from young people (aged 21 or younger) who would like to let others know about what makes their favourite track a great place to enjoy live racing, whether now or before coronavirus restrictions (in provinces/states where attendance is currently restricted). Please contact USHWA Youth Membership Committee Chair Melissa Keith ([email protected]) if interested in taking part in this project.


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