Racing Industry Reacts to 'Unprecedented Tragedy'
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2001 12:55 PM
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 10:54 AM
Thoroughbred racing and simulcasting at major locations in the United States shut down Tuesday due to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Many also planned to close Wednesday.
"We've been in contact with a number of our members, who obviously have canceled racing for (Tuesday), and it appears most will cancel as well on Wednesday," said Tim Smith, commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "It's a terrible, unprecedented tragedy. It's going to take at least some days to sort out the implications for the country, as well as our business.
"Inevitably, after the shock...there is a realization that life needs to go on, business needs to go on, and even sports needs to go on. That will occur in due course, though. Right now, we join everybody else in thinking and praying for victims and their families."
Smith said the NTRA's New York City offices aren't located in proximity to the World Trade Center buildings, both of which were struck by planes Tuesday and collapsed. He said officials were in contact with employees in the New York office, which is located in midtown Manhattan, "and everybody is safe that we know about in the office." Smith also said no NTRA employees had air travel scheduled for the day.
The following facilities had canceled live racing for Tuesday: the Downs at Albuquerque, Delaware Park, Fairmount Park, Fairplex Park, Finger Lakes, Great Lakes Downs, Meadowlands, Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, Philadelphia Park, and Prairie Meadows.
"We in the Thoroughbred racing industry share the wrenching sorrow that all Americans are experiencing today, and the TRA member tracks in the United States did not feel it would be appropriate to conduct today's live racing programs," said Bryan Krantz, owner of Fair Grounds and president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations. "Today is a day better spent mourning and praying for the victims of these horrible events."
The TRA and its members will continue to monitor developments throughout the country, and business will proceed on a day-to-day basis.
Belmont Park near New York City was scheduled to close for live racing Wednesday, New York Racing Association broadcast manager John Lee said. Lee, interviewed on air by the TV Games Network, said parking lots at Belmont were being used as emergency staging areas.
Churchill Downs Inc. closed all of its racetracks and off-track wagering facilities in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky Tuesday and Wednesday. A decision is to be made by 12 noon EDT Wednesday concerning when the facilities will resume normal operations.
"Churchill Downs Inc. and its employees are deeply saddened by today's events, and we believe that it is in the best interests of our patrons, vendors, and employees to close our live racing and simulcast wagering operations today and tomorrow," Churchill president Tom Meeker said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."
Normal training hours will continue at the company's racetracks and
training facilities. All employees and horsemen should enter through designated security entrances and will be required to present a photo identification before they are granted admittance.
Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Park and its six Turf Clubs in southeast Pennsylvania, said the decision to cancel the live cards and simulcasting at Philadelphia Park and at Freehold Raceway, which is owned jointly by Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming, was made at about 10 a.m.
"We decided to cancel out of respect for the suffering that's going on
in New York and Washington, D.C.," Handel said. "It seems so trivial to be doing what we do on a day like this."
No decision was made as to whether the facilities will reopen Wednesday. "It depends on the attitude of the city of Philadelphia," Handel said. "If it's business as usual, we might reopen. We'll also wait and see what other tracks across the country are doing, see what simulcast signals are available, and see if there are any telecommunications problems."
Turfway Park in Kentucky will be closed Wednesday for simulcasting, and also canceled its live racing program for Wednesday evening. "In light of what has occurred, we believe this is an important time for our patrons and employees to reflect on those things most important," Turfway president Bob Elliston said.
Fair Grounds and its off-track betting parlors in Louisiana were closed Tuesday, and will be closed Wednesday.
New Jersey officials said Meadowlands and Monmouth Park also canceled simulcasting Tuesday "for the safety of guests, horsemen, and employees."
The Maryland Jockey Club closed both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course for simulcasting Tuesday, and for live racing and simulcasting Wednesday.
Lone Star Park closed for simulcasting Tuesday and Wednesday. "Our prayers are with those affected by this terrible tragedy," said Corey Johnsen, president and general manager of Lone Star.
Tampa Bay Downs in Florida closed for simulcasting Tuesday.
Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, now in the midst of its simulcasting season, will be closed for wagering Wednesday, track officials said.
Along with Freehold, Balmoral Park, Harrington Raceway, The Meadows, Monticello Raceway, The Downs at Pocono, Saratoga Equine Sports Center, Scioto Downs, and Yonkers Raceway all canceled their harness programs for Tuesday.
As of 1 p.m. EDT, it appeared that only Fort Erie Racetrack, located just across the U.S. border in Ontario, Canada, was open for live Thoroughbred racing.
The TV Games Network, which had planned to cover the second session of the Keeneland September sale as well as broadcast Thoroughbred and harness races, was planning other programming. John Hindman, director of communications for TVG, said the network broadcast some early reports from the Keeneland sale grounds, then shut down all wagering operations.
"This is a tremendous American tragedy, and we want to treat it the way we should," Hindman said.
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