The sport of horse racing has seen a major decline in popularity and interest over the last few years, but that is starting to change. Horse racing is one of the only live sporting events still taking place due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it has seen a huge boost in viewership because of this. The real test will be to see how fans view and approach horse racing when other sports return, but this is a positive sign for the sport.
There aren’t many race tracks that have remained open throughout the pandemic, but the ones that have are seeing tremendous success. Television companies are paying big money for the rights to broadcast live events to provide some entertainment.
According to Reuters, TV audiences have gone up 206 percent since the same time period a year ago. Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, and NBC Sports Network are the channels that have been showing live events. All of the horse racing events have taken place without fans in attendance, which is another reason that there has been a large TV audience.
The three main race tracks that have remained open are Gulfstream Park in Florida, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, and Remington Park in Oklahoma. Even though these tracks are closed to the public, each track is still making plenty of revenue. Horse racing tracks make a large majority of their money from betting on the events, and the tracks get a cut of the money from off-track betting facilities.
Education As Well
Another major change has been the way that television stations broadcast the races to fans. The networks have had to tailor their broadcast to educate the new horse racing fans that are tuning in for the first time. Instead of just talking about the race that is taking place, networks are also being forced to talk about the sport.
Broadcast crews are also much smaller than they have been in the past. Most television companies are using crews of less than 10 people to broadcast live events, and all of the commentators are spaced out to follow social distancing rules.
The tracks that have remained open have promised to comply with all of the health and safety guidelines that have been established. The number one concern is the health and well-being of the horses, which some parks have over 7,000 horses at the facility.
Santa Anita Wants to Re-Open
Santa Anita Park in California was one of the race tracks that remained open after other businesses in the state were forced to close. The race track hosted events for more than two weeks before local health officials ordered that the track be closed. The Stronach Group operates Santa Anita Park, and they are hoping to get word that they can resume their normal operations by the end of the month.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health are currently reviewing all available information before making a decision on Santa Anita. Leaders of the Stronach Group met with these two organizations on April 16 in an attempt to persuade them to allow the park to open back up.
There are currently more than 1,700 horses still at the race track, and over 750 employees are taking care of the animals. All of these workers live in the dormitories at the park, and they have been allowed to continue working and training the animals.
Santa Anita Park has pitched an idea to keep all of the jockeys and race personnel safe, which includes having them all live on-site at the facility. The park needs the revenue from races to pay for their day-to-day operating costs.