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Illinois Racing To Return In June

Published: May 28, 2020 7:24 pm ET

Last Comment: May 29, 2020 8:16 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

On Thursday, May 28, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) announced that horse racing is returning to Illinois racetracks in June.

The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) has announced that live Standardbred racing at Hawthorne Race Course will resume on Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7. The IHHA has also stated that Hawthorne will then be switching to a three-night-per-week schedule.

Via release, the IDOA has announced that it has worked with various stakeholders to bring patron-free Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing back to raceways around the state while adhering to the social distancing guidelines. According to the IDOA, the move is an effort to provide economic relief to the horse racing industry, as other states have done.

Only licensed essential personnel for the care of racehorses, and those necessary to conduct live racing will be allowed on the grounds. Wagering will take place online since no spectators are allowed in the venues.

"These conditions necessitate changes to keep horse racing going in Illinois" Illinois Racing Board Executive Director Domenic DiCera has been quoted as saying. "The return of live horse racing in Illinois is welcomed by many hardworking men and woman that work and are committed to this industry."

Strict safety protocols will be in place when racing returns, and everyone must follow new rules, according to the IHHA. Temperatures will be taken when people enter the backstretch. Participants will be required to wear masks at all times and social distancing will be enforced. Additionally, new paddock and ship-in areas will be designed to conform to the rules. The IHHA has stated that its membership will follow the rules religiously. The IHHA release on the matter states that, 'No one person is more important than the whole of the industry. Do not show up without a mask and don’t take these warnings lightly. We have sacrificed too much lost time already to risk a setback.'

According to the IHHA, Hawthorne qualifiers have been scheduled for Monday, June 1 at 2 p.m. and Wednesday, June 3 at 11:00 a.m. If a Standardbred raced after Friday, March 6, it is not required to qualify, according to the IHHA. The horsemen's association has also stated that qualifying standards will go back to the traditional 45 days, effective June 10.

The IHHA has also indicated that there may be an adjustment on the starting post time to maximize the opportunity for handle. The organization has also stated that because of the obvious lack of simulcasting wagering from the past three months, racing will start back with a 15 per cent reduction in purses. The IHHA is hopeful that the reduction will be the only purse cut of the year. The Illinois Racing Board will be open for licensing at the racetrack (days and hours to be announced soon).

"We have been working almost since the start of the pandemic to find a way to get horses back on the tracks in Illinois," IDOA Acting Director Jerry Costello II has said. "We think the safety guidelines that have been laid out for social distancing of personnel while at the track, as well as the other precautions being taken to protect the horseman will allow for a safe racing environment, while maintaining the integrity of the sport."

(With files from the IDOA and IHHA)

May 29, 2020 - 8:16 amOntario, Ohio, New York,

Johnny Kish SAID...

Ontario, Ohio, New York, Indiana, Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota, and now Illinois. When will Pennsylvania get their act together and let their horse people get back into the game?

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