VERNON, N.Y. - Vernon Downs opened its 67th season of Harness Racing at the "Miracle Mile," Wednesday, after a delayed start due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Racing began with a 12-race card with no spectators present in accordance with the CDC and New York State guidelines for the ongoing health crisis.
"It's very different to not have spectators, it's something we are not really accustomed to," said Brett Risi, Vernon Downs' Racing Operations Manager. We are hoping to have people back obviously as soon as possible."
For staff members and racing team members present at the track, social distancing, sanitizing and PPE procedures were put into place to ensure a safe environment.
"We had two options as our owner [Jeff Gural] said: Either you abide by the rules or we're not going to be able to race," said Risi. "So you might have to get up a few minutes earlier or you might need to stay a few minutes later, but in the end it's all worth it because it's what we all love to do"
The races were simulcast and betting was available online for people to participate, even though not physically allowed at the track. The primary motivation for being able to race though was to allow horsemen, groomers, trainers and other members of the race teams to have the chance to return to some form of normalcy moving forward.
"This is their livelihood," said Risi "They take care of horses seven days a week so they need that purse money, which is what you race for, in order to live."
Racing will take place every Wednesday and Thursday at the Miracle Mile beginning at 4 p.m. throughout the month of June.
For a full schedule with simulcast, betting options and race results, click here.