By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
The Broward County government’s new list of “essential businesses” that can remain open during the coronasvius pandemic does not include horse racing tracks or the more general categories of sports venues or entertainment venues.
But officials of Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., are planning to keep on racing, including the Florida Derby (Grade 1) which is set for this coming Saturday March 28.
“Right now, we’re scheduled to run,” Gulfstream Park spokesman David Joseph said of the Florida Derby in an email to the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Monday afternoon.
On Sunday night, Broward County issued an order that requires all nonessential businesses to close immediately and stay closed until the Florida and Broward governments termnate their state of emergency orders regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The order lists more than 30 types of businesses that Broward County feels are essential. Many of them are in categories for medical services. food stores and transporttion services.
The order allows nonessential businesses to seek to remain open on their minimum capacity if they feel that is necessary to maintain the value of the business or property.
That could give Gulfstream leeway to seek permission to race on Florida Derby day, its traditional biggest betting and highest profile day of the year, but not on other days while Broward’s “nonessential” order is in place.
Gulfstream is scheduled to resume racing this Wednesday with first post of 1:00 p.m.
Gulfstream’s 2019-2020 championship meet is scheduled to end on Sunday March 29.
The Gulfstream spring meet is scheduled to begin on Thursday April 2, with racing Thursdays through Sundays.
Gulfstream has continued its regular racing schedule amid the coronavirus crisis.
But since March 13 it has done that without any spectators and with no on-track betting as it attempts to comply with federal and Florida government guidelines on limiting the number of people at public gatherings.
Several other major tracks are running “no spectator” races, including Tampa Bay Downs.
In most cases, those tracks are temporarily not offering simulcast betting on Gulfstream races.
That has left advance deposit wagering (ADW) phone and Internet betting services with a larger share of the market.
The size of the ADW market during the “no spectator” days is not readily available.
But HorseRFacingFLA’s review of Equibase charts indicates the nationwide popularity of Gulfstreeam’s championship meet and its overall brand.
During the first five days of Gulfstream’s no spectators racing, Friday March 13 through Thursday March 19, its daily average total hanld e was $8.6 million.
That was 13 percent lower than Gulfstream’s daily average of $9.9 million from Friday March 6 to Thursday March 12–the track’s most recent stretch of betting with spectators.
The $8.6 million average was the best among U.S. thoroughbred tracks and the 13 percent decline was, in our view, low under the circumstances.
*The Florida Derby is 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3-year-olds, and is a points scoring race for the Kentucky Derby (Grade ) at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Ky. Due to concerns about the coronavirus, Churchill Downs has postponed this year’s Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5.