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Tampa Bay Downs closing races to fans after this weekend

The racetrack will remain open for live racing through Sunday, but closes to the public after that because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans are still permitted to attend this weekend's events at Tampa Bay Downs.
Fans are still permitted to attend this weekend's events at Tampa Bay Downs.
Published Mar. 13, 2020
Updated Mar. 14, 2020

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TAMPA — After this weekend, Tampa Bay Downs will begin running its thoroughbred racing card without fans in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fans are still permitted to attend this weekend’s events through Sunday, but when live racing begins again Wednesday, it will be minus spectators for “an indeterminate period.” The track is also suspending simulcast wagering on out-of-town races after Sunday.

“Many factors enter into decisions of this magnitude, but our overriding concern is always the health and safety of our fans, our employees, our horsemen and the backstretch workers,” Tampa Bay Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube said.

Berube advised those who are feeling sick to not attend this weekend’s races.

“We cannot emphasize strongly enough the need for anyone who is ill or feeling under the weather to stay home,” Berube said. “Visitors to the track this weekend should follow health guidelines that include frequent hand washing, covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing and minimizing contact with ‘high-touch’ areas such as counter tops and door handles."

The facility’s poker room and golf practice area will remain open for now, but no off-track betting will be offered.

As has been the case throughout sports, the threat of coronavirus spreading through large gatherings prompted cancelations and postponements throughout the world over the past two days.

Horse racing is no different. Santa Anita Park in California closed races to fans, as did Aqueduct Racetrack in New York. Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach closed all live racing cards to fans starting Friday and announced that the Florida Derby will be held as scheduled on March 28 but without fans.

Tampa Bay Downs just held its biggest racing day of the season last weekend, a card that included a $1 million purse and the running of the annual Tampa Bay Derby. Another stakes card is scheduled for March 29.

The track is currently slated to hold live racing every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (with the exception of Easter Sunday on April 12) through May 3.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

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BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

OTHER CORONAVIRUS WEBSITES:

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Florida Department of Health

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