OHIO — Harness horse racing is back in Ohio.
- Qualifying races are underway in venues located in Columbus and Cleveland
- Scioto Downs and MGM Northfield Park will begin races on Friday
- The industry will have to follow new protocols from the Ohio State Racing Commission
What You Need To Know
"I always say it’s an eight day a week job taking care of horses. You’re not in it unless you love the horse and love the sport. But yes, this has been a good test and now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel," said Joe Morris, senior vice president of racing for Eldorado Resorts.
Eldorado Resorts is hosting the first harness track races at Scioto Downs in Columbus starting Friday. He says things will look a little different.
"We have a four race paddock. We’re using in two races at a time. Everybody’s wearing their masks. Everybody has their hand sanitizers. If you’re not the trainer, the groomer or the driver, you’re not on the property," said Morris.
No audience, limited staff on the track, and medical screenings are on the five pages of new protocols from the Ohio State Racing Commission— rules members of the industry we spoke with are willing to follow as excitement builds.
"I think obviously it’s more than a positive reaction," said Renee Mancino, executive director of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association. "It’s very difficult in our industry to keep race horses on the shelf and the participants are used to being regulated, heavily regulated and can comply with spectator-less racing without a problem.
Renee Mancino is the executive director of the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association and says over a thousand horses are expected to race in qualifiers this week, restarting an industry she says has a big economic impact.
"We did an economic impact study that was just about to be completed, and that was based on 2018 data. And we have 23,000 people that are employed in the horse racing industry, and the economic impact on a yearly basis is about $2.7 billion."