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Director of Racing Alexandra Lightbown Thanks Seasonal Racing Staff after 2020 Season

Having reached the end of the 2020 racing season that occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the extraordinary efforts of the MGC’s Division of Racing staff.

Their jobs cannot be done remotely, so extensive COVID-19 protocols were added on top of our existing regulatory protocols to keep everyone safe. The staff deftly managed to comply with the COVID-19 protocols without jeopardizing regulatory compliance.  Common COVID-19 policies, such as wearing a mask, installing plexiglass shields and hand washing, were augmented by policies with a racing twist. Horses were used as shields between their handlers and the veterinarians, and horses also naturally promote social distancing (do not get too close or you might get kicked!)

Despite the opening of racing being delayed by three months, Plainridge Park Casino was still able to stage the running of the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot ($250,000 purse), in which a world record was set, and the Clara Barton Pace ($100,000 purse), in which an all-time track record was set.

The Sire Stake races for Massachusetts-bred Standardbreds also saw multiple records set, showing how that program improves every year. The work of the Division of Racing enabled the industry to thrive.

Even with a shortened season, more than 1500 horses were tested.  Judges held their hearings remotely. License applications could be filled out online. The MGC approved the use of handheld betting devices that were used to offer drive-through betting on Kentucky Derby Day, all in order to promote social distancing.

This year clearly showed how much the Division of Racing cares about the participants, the integrity of racing, and the wonderful, athletic horses. The staff worked with the Standardbred industry to weather the pandemic, and the horsemen were able to take home more than $8 million in purses. The goal of keeping the racing safe and sustainable was achieved by a lot of hard work and a little luck.

For the seasonal racing staff, many of them return to their other work, commit to their education, or enjoy the winter months until the racing season starts again in April. We wish them well until Opening Day in 2021, and we thank them for going above and beyond during this 2020 racing season during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

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