Track spokesman Keith Jones said that construction inside the grandstand, which began this week, was the prime reason the Derby was scrapped.
"There will be no way we could safely accommodate the big crowd we usually get for the Pennsylvania Derby with the ongoing construction and renovations to all three floors of the grandstand," said Jones.
Greenwood Racing, Inc., owners of Philadelphia Park, are readying the grandstand for slot machines. Plans call for the first two floors to have gaming devices and a limited amount of pari-mutuel wagering, while the third floor will be devoted primarily to pari-mutuel wagering and simulcasting. The director's room for high rollers, currently on the first floor, and a restaurant will be opened on the third floor, but the horsemen's box seating will remain at its present location on the second floor.
The $75,000 Steve Van Buren Handicap (which traditionally shares the card with the Pennsylvania Derby), will be run this year, but on a different date, most likely near Labor Day, Philly Park chief executive officer Hal Handel said."Our construction plans won't impact Pennsylvania's Day at the Races (a day specifically for Pennsylvania-breds and their owners and breeders) on July 29," Handel said.
Greenwood expects to once again present the Pennsylvania Derby in 2007. This is the first time since the Derby was created in 1979 that it has been cancelled.