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Fairmount Park will resume racing without spectators next week

Fairmount Park will resume racing without spectators next week

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Fairmount Park Racetrack 2020 season opening horse races

Rahfee Town ridden by Rafael Manuel Hernandez, left, tries to chase down Lost in Manhattan ridden by Victor Santiago in the fourth race Fairmount Park Racetrack during the season opening races in Collinsville on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Lost in Manhattan won the race. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Fairmount Park in Collinsville will resume horse racing next week without spectators, according to Jim Watkins, president of the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Fairmount is scheduled to run on Tuesday, but Watkins said he is unsure which day the races will return. At the end of this week, the track will have lost 21 scheduled racing days to the shutdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan is to have seven races twice a week with online wagering available.

Watkins had been trying for more than a month to gain approval for the track to re-open without spectators. The decision to resume coincides with Phase 3 of Illinois’ plan to re-open the state.

“I’m relieved and drained to the point that excitement hasn’t taken over yet,” Watkins said. “I’ve received 30 or 40 calls and people want to know the details like a kid at Christmas. The horsemen stuck together and stuck it out to show their resolve.”

Watkins said 20 to 25 additional people will need to work on race days beyond the usual staff that is on site. There are about 100 people living at the track to take care of about 550 horses.

Fairmount ran without spectators on March 17 but generated only $539,000, which wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile for the track and horsemen. However, there has been a dramatic increase in online wagering in the last two months and other tracks around the country have done well.

Watkins said Fonner Park in Nebraska is comparable to Fairmount and has handled as much as $5 million in a day in the last two months.

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