California harness track denied schedule change

Horse Racing

The only track in the U.S. that is still running harness races during the coronavirus pandemic was turned down by the California Horse Racing Board for a requested schedule change. Cal Expo’s general manager, Chris Schick, told ESPN Monday night the Sacramento track will have to stick with a Friday-Saturday schedule instead of Tuesday-Wednesday, losing out on gaining an exclusive simulcast opportunity to increase attention and wagering.

Schick said the reason given by the CHRB on the eve of when the track would have implemented the change was that the request had to be heard by the full board as an agenda item.

Other than Cal Expo, only tracks in Australia and Sweden appear to be running harness races. After five closure announcements last week, Cal Expo was the last of the 18 in the United States with plans to remain open. Its meet is scheduled to run through late April.

Tracks in Saratoga, New York, and Northfield, Ohio, suspended harness racing Friday.

“I hate to see the closures — they will hurt a lot of people — but the nation’s priority has to be containing and stopping the spread of the virus,” Mike Tanner, CEO of the U.S. Trotting Association, told ESPN last week.

“Our sport knows that firsthand and in a very painful way,” Tanner said, adding, “We’ll work to help be part of the solution.”

Harness racing trainers and brothers Carmine and Vincent Fusco and former trainer John Brennan all died in the past three weeks after contracting the virus. The Fuscos’ mother and sister also died after contracting the virus and other siblings remain hospitalized.

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