Prairie Meadows has established a tentative time frame of between June 15 and July 1 for the reopening of its casino and the beginning of its mixed-breed race meet, according to Iowa horsemen representatives that met with track management May 15. Under those conditions, the track would open its backside three weeks before the casino and racetrack begin operations.
Prairie Meadows has been closed this spring because of COVID-19. Before the outbreak, it was scheduled to run Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses May 1-Sept. 26.
"We will need to determine how much purse money to take from this year's meet to save for next year's meet because of the loss of Prairie Meadows revenue this year," Tom Lepic, the president of the Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association, wrote on the organization's website. "Purse money for next year's meet comes from this year's Prairie Meadows revenue. Any changes will need to be approved by the IQHRA Board of Directors as well as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission and HBPA.
"Until then, just know we are working hard to get the backside open as soon as possible, to get a new condition book finalized, and to begin racing."
This week, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation that allowed Prairie Meadows to begin spectatorless racing, though she required that casinos remain closed through May 27.
Shortly thereafter, Prairie Meadows issued a news release that stated it would not immediately reopen. The track cited COVID-19 spreading in the track's region in Polk County, the safety of its 1,130 laid-off employees, some of whom would need to return to work, concerns about following social-distance requirements if it opened its backstretch, and other factors.
Gary Palmer, the Prairie Meadows president and CEO, could not be reached for comment.
"We're very preliminary at this point, and that's up for negotiations and discussion moving forward," said Jon Moss, the executive director of the Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "We're grateful that Prairie Meadows is starting to be in the process now, and hopefully we'll be able to get something out to horsemen that is more concrete and substantial (soon). It's going to take a little while since they are so many moving parts."
This week, racetracks such as Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races, Churchill Downs, Golden Gate Fields, and Santa Anita Park have resumed racing after having their meets suspended or delayed by COVID-19.
Churchill Downs, like Prairie Meadows, did not have any horses stabled on its backstretch when operations were suspended by the virus. It began accepting horses and backstretch workers May 11, many from other regions of the country where they had been stabled over the winter and early spring months.
"Most of our guys train elsewhere and then come in for the race meet," Moss said of Prairie Meadows horsemen. "They go to the southern locations and use those types of training centers. For us, right now, backing this farther off as it has, it really puts quite a few of them in a bind."