COVID-19 Forces Turf Paradise To Cancel 2020-21 Meet
PHOENIX, AZ—AUGUST 13, 2020—According to an article published today on the Daily Racing Form website, the owner of Turf Paradise told the Arizona Racing Commission during a teleconference meeting today (Thursday) that the track will not run its scheduled 2020-21 race meet, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Jerry Simms, the owner of the track since 2000, asked to speak prior to commission considering an agenda item on a plan by Turf Paradise to modify its live racing dates for a meet initially scheduled to start on Oct. 17.
“I’d like to give the horsemen as much notice as possible and not wait for another meeting,” Simms said. “We are not going to run this next meet because of the coronavirus. We are not going to take on that liability.”
The request comes when Arizona, one of the most highly impacted COVID states in the U.S., is gradually reducing its coronavirus cases. The state reported that its positivity rate had declined to 12.5 percent this week, after hitting as high as 25 percent.
The decision by Turf Paradise also comes amid a prolonged dispute with Arizona's horsemen group over a wide variety of issues, including the importation of simulcasts, the track’s commitment to live racing, and a decision earlier this year to end the live meet early at the beginning of the coronavirus spread and require horsemen to vacate the track within 30 days of the closure.
Michael Napier, the legal counsel for the Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said prior to Simms appearing on the teleconference that the horsemen’s group had “doubts about the good-faith efforts” by Turf Paradise to negotiate with horsemen over the terms of the upcoming meet.
Napier also asked the commission to deny the motion by Turf Paradise to change its dates for the 2020-21 meet, saying the new plan would be short of the 150 live race dates required by law. The request in front of the commission was for 121 days of live racing.
“We don’t have an agreement, and the track has not sought out any agreement with the HBPA over the dates that they are now seeking,” Napier had said. “That being the case, the commission is bound by Arizona law.”