From qualifiers to closure — start of Hoosier Park live season halted by COVID-19

The Anderson, IN track will be closed for a minimum of two weeks beginning Monday, delaying the start of the live season originally set for March 27.

by James Platz

Saturday morning Harrah’s Hoosier Park played host to the first qualifiers of the year as management and staff readied for the 2020 harness racing season. By Saturday night, the Indiana Gaming Commission announced that the track, casino, and off-track facilities – part of a group of 13 gaming locations regulated by the state – will close for a minimum 14 days beginning at 6 a.m. Monday, March 16. The announcement comes as Indiana combats the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The decision nixes the track’s opening night scheduled for Friday, March 27.

The message posted on the IGC’s website and similarly echoed on the Indiana Standardbred Breed Development twitter account, reads as follows:

“Based on changing circumstances and in the interest of public health, Indiana licensed gaming and racing operations will close for at least 14 days beginning at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020. The Indiana Gaming and Horse Racing Commissions will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as appropriate.”

According to breed development’s social media posts, the closure will result in the suspension of qualifying races at Hoosier Park during the 14-day period. The track, however, remains open for training for only those horses stabled on the grounds. The dormitories and barn area opened Saturday, March 7. Rick Moore, Hoosier Park’s long-time vice-president and general manager of racing, said the closure is in the best interest of all parties in light of coronavirus concerns.

“We’ll have to re-evaluate. We can’t proceed with our planned opening weekend because the two-week moratorium extends over that period. Obviously we haven’t had time internally to discuss all that, but we’ll be doing that soon,” Moore said. “We’re doing everything to comply with what the state wants us to do, and we think it’s the right thing to do at this time. Let’s be conservative and cautious and hopefully we can get through this in the near future. Right now we want to make sure everyone is safe and healthy here at Harrah’s Hoosier Park.”

Hoosier Park is preparing for its 27thseason of racing, offering 160 programs. The 2020 season also signals the Anderson oval’s second opportunity to host the Breeders Crown later this year. The fluid nature of the situation calls into question just when the 2020 season will begin, but Moore is looking forward to focusing on racing once Hoosier Park is cleared to proceed.

“We’re going to have a great meet no matter when we open. I’m looking forward to it, we just have to figure out when that’s going to be,” he said. “Let’s take every precaution and get past this.”

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed Friday that 15 individuals have tested positive for the coronavirus across 10 different counties. Hoosier Park is located in Madison County, which has no positive tests.