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Scarborough Downs summer racing meet suspended due to coronavirus

The summer harness racing meet will be suspended following the card on Friday due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, hope to resume races in the fall.
Credit: NCM

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — The Scarborough Downs Harness Race Track began its 70th season on June 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic, being allowed to reopen with strict restrictions under Maine’s phased reopening plan.

The Downs was prohibited from racing its customary April and May dates due to the state of emergency declared in Maine but was able to work with others in the industry to get special permission from the Maine Department of Economic Development to launch its season. Strict protocols included racing without spectators at live card races.

Despite adapting and being able to operate throughout June, the Downs announced Wednesday that their summer harness racing meet will be suspended following the card on Friday due to ongoing restrictions.

According to the Downs, they were able to operate with funds secured from the Payroll Protection Plan and with financial grants received from the Maine Harness Racing Commission. With those funds, the track was able to conduct an abbreviated 17-day meet.

Scarborough Downs says those funds are exhausted, however, and they are working on plans for new and different revenues, including possible revenue from patrons or other sources so that the Downs can resume the competition of live racing this fall. 

“The Downs is proud of its long history as an integral part of Maine racing since 1950,” Denise Terry, President, and Treasurer of the Downs said. “The hard work of our loyal employees and others in the industry allowed the Downs to operate live racing with only remote wagering this spring.”

Scarborough Downs says it hopes to generate revenues through full card simulcasting, which is allowed under Stage 3 of the state’s reopening plan, and other revenue ideas management is pursuing. The Downs says management is cautiously optimistic live racing can reopen September 5.

“No other Maine track and only a handful of tracks in the country were able to operate during the COVID shutdown,” Terry continued. “We appreciate the efforts of our employees, Maine’s wonderful horsemen, and the leadership and the Maine Harness Racing Commission and its staff, including in particular Executive Director Henry Jennings. Everyone worked cooperatively to provide safe, exciting racing on the limited basis that was possible under the circumstances. We are optimistic we will find a way forward to an even more robust and exciting, but equally safe, fall meet.”

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