Smaller horse tracks benefit from closures

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Spring is the time when horses are on the move to new locations. Horses based in Florida head to their summer homes in New York, Kentucky and New Jersey. Stables at Fair Grounds in Louisiana usually ship to other tracks in the state and to Kentucky after that meet ends in late March. Many California stables split their barns in April to set up shop at Keeneland and at Churchill Downs.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, track closures have changed those migration patterns and horseplayers looking to stay in action have also been forced to adapt. Open tracks like Fonner Park in Nebraska, Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, and Los Alamitos — the lone remaining track in California currently allowed to race — are the beneficiaries.

Last Tuesday at Fonner Park, emboldened by a late Pick Five carryover of $500,000 with a mandatory payout, Fonner set an all-time one-day handle record in the state of Nebraska with $7.2 million. Some $3.6 million of that was bet in the late Pick Five. Horses shipping from shuttered tracks like Turf Paradise, Delta Downs and Sunland Park helped to increase field sizes and generate the record handle.

Horse owners hit during COVID-19 pandemic

At Will Rogers Downs near Tulsa, Oklahoma, the total handle through the first 10 days of the current meet is $26.5 million. For the entire 25-day meet last year, Will Rogers had a total handle of $16.8 million. Will Rogers has benefited from Turfway Park and Sam Houston shippers since those tracks were forced to close early.

Last Saturday was supposed to be Arkansas Derby day at Oaklawn. With the Kentucky Derby postponed to Sept. 5, the Arkansas Derby was postponed to May 2 and the Oaklawn Stakes for three-year-olds, originally scheduled for May 2, was switched to last Saturday. It didn’t matter, as the 12-race card featuring full fields generated a new total handle record of $16.92 million.

Los Alamitos has seen an increase in participation of horses from Turf Paradise as well as Santa Anita and Golden Gate, which have been shut down by other county health departments in California. On April 4, Los Alamitos set a new handle record of $271,403 in their early Pick Four. This past Saturday, Los Alamitos handled $335,918 in the early Pick Four to destroy the week-old record.

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A lack of shipping options for horses in Florida has led to higher quality racing and bigger fields at both Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. Those tracks will see a significant uptick in off-track handle, too, due to the limited menu of live racing.

Saudi Cup purse withheld

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) announced it is withholding the distribution of the purse from the $20 million Saudi Cup due to the U.S. indictment of winning trainer Jason Servis on charges relating to the administration of illegal substances.

“The JCSA is aware that Mr. Jason Servis, trainer of the horse, Maximum Security, the first placed horse in the Saudi Cup, has been indicted in the United States of America on charges relating to the administration of prohibited substances to horses in training under his care and control,” said the JCSA in Monday’s press release.

“The JCSA is conducting its own investigation in respect of the allegations and until that investigation is concluded, the JCSA will withhold payment of prize money due to all connections of horses placed in prize-winning positions in The Saudi Cup. The decision has been communicated privately to connections of Saudi Cup runners.”

Servis was one of over two dozen people named in a federal indictment for various charges related to drug misbranding or doping. The indictments were handed down a week after the Saudi Cup was held February 29.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Oaklawn Park Thursday, Race 3: Pat Daddy (No. 4). Oaklawn specialist and win type has raced himself into shape, fits the restricted claiming conditions nicely and should get a nice pace-pressing trip.

About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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