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Turf Paradise calls off horse racing season over pandemic

(Facebook Photo/Turf Paradise)

PHOENIX – Turf Paradise announced it has canceled the 2020-21 horse racing season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Phoenix track said Thursday virus safety guidelines, such as restrictions on large crowds and necessary social distancing requirements, made it impossible to operate “a financially practical race meet.”

The track near 19th Avenue and Bell Road turned down the Arizona Racing Commission’s proposed 121-day meet from November to May, which would have started a month later than usual.

“Health concerns and economic realities have left us with no choice but the cancel the meet,” track general manager Vince Francia said in a press release.

About 1,000 employees work around the stables, the track said.

The public health concerns have also affected off-site revenues.

Turf Paradise also cited restrictions on bars, many of which host off-track betting. Fewer customers means less money for the track.

It’s the second shutdown of the year over the virus for the track, open since 1956.

Live horse racing was brought to a halt in May at the site. The track closed in mid-March, several weeks early.

Special events at the track generally draw about 6,000 people, officials said.

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