To: Doug Moore, Executive Secretary Washington Horse Racing Commission
From: Phil Ziegler, President Emerald Downs Racing LLC
While we usually give our update verbally, we wanted to submit the end of season report in writing.
Despite not having fans at the track, Emerald Downs concluded its 38-day 2020 racing season with record average daily handle. Daily wagering averaged $1,796,475, a 61 percent increase over last year.
We had unprecedented challenges, not only at the track, but in all aspects of our lives. It took the dedication and cooperation of every person involved with Washington racing to prepare for and put on a successful meet. On Wednesday, June 24, horse racing was the first professional sport to return in the state of Washington.
We were open for training when the pandemic began in March and concluded the live season seven and half months later. It is remarkable to report that there were no known COVID cases associated with anyone involved with the race meet.
Good health was not limited to the human participants. Over the 391 races conducted there were zero catastrophic breakdowns from the 2,895 starters.
The racing industry deserves incredible appreciation and recognition for the 2020 season. And while many tracks were closing their stable areas, we had the financial support and dedication from the Muckleshoot Tribe to get us through a period of time without knowing if we would even be permitted to have a live season.
As we look forward to 2021 there is encouraging news of vaccines, which gives us hope of possibly being able to welcome our fans back to the races. It is the plan to open the barn area March 1, begin the season in mid-May and run through sometime in September. We will have an official date request submitted for the January meeting of the WHRC.
2020 Season Timeline
- Barn area and training begins February 1. Opening Day scheduled for April 18.
- Stay at Home order issued on March 16. Only essential workers permitted in stable area as training and horse care continued. Opening Day delayed.
- Approvals to run live racing (and other professional sports) posted by Governor Inslee’s office on June 5.
- Washington Horse Racing Commission approves revised dates. Opening Day set for June 24 with racing Wednesdays and Thursdays without fans.
- June 24 – Opening Day. Horse racing becomes the first professional sport to return in Washington.
- Longacres Mile is run on Thursday, September 10, marking the first weekday running and the first time run under the lights.
- The 38-day race meet concludes on Thursday, October 29.