'Everybody understands': P.E.I.'s harness racing season delayed due to COVID-19

The start of P.E.I.’s harness racing season has been pushed back a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All races in May cancelled, season tentatively scheduled to start June 4

Blaine MacPherson says the horse racing industry understands it must follow the physical distancing recommendations of the chief public health officer. (Red Shores Racetrack & Casino/Facebook)

This is usually a time of excitement for horse owners, drivers and fans as they get ready for the start of the harness racing season. But on May 2, no horses will be coming around the backstretch, and no announcer will be announcing the winner over the loud speaker.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the start of P.E.I.'s harness racing season has been pushed back at least a month.

The season was supposed to start on May 2 at Red Shores in Charlottetown. It has now been tentatively rescheduled to June 4.

But that may be pushed back further if restrictions on public gatherings are still in place, said Blaine MacPherson, chair of the P.E.I. Harness Racing Industry Association.

"Everything's so uncertain right now. Things change every day," he said. "But we decided to not race in May."

MacPherson said he was on a conference call Wednesday with representatives from Red Shores, the Prince County Horsemen's Club and the P.E.I. Standardbred Horseowners Association.

He said there will be lost revenue for the horse owners, but that "everybody understands."

"Whatever Dr. [Heather] Morrison recommends, that's what we'll have to do as a group until we get this whole issue under control."

Red Shores is closed to the public but the track, paddocks and barns are still being maintained. There are about 270 horses at Red Shores, MacPherson said. He said they will continue to train in hopes the season will not be lost.

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