Apr 5, 2023 - Business

Turf Paradise race season can continue after safety repairs

A cutout image of a jockey on a horse in front of a sign reading Turf Paradise marketplace and racetrack.

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

The remainder of the racing season will continue as planned at Turf Paradise after industry regulators certified the north Phoenix horse track completed safety repairs ahead of a critical deadline.

Catch up quick: The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), a regulatory body created by Congress in 2020, set a March 31 deadline for Turf Paradise to fix the safety railing along the 1-mile oval track.

  • A HISA investigation found that gaps and exposed edges in the panels on the railing posed a significant injury risk if jockeys fell off their horses.

Why it matters: Had Turf Paradise missed the deadline, it would have lost the right to simulcast its races and accept mobile bets through a system called advance deposit wagering for the final six weeks of its season.

  • On average, horse tracks get about 90% of their revenue through simulcasting and mobile wagering, and Turf Paradise is no different, general manager Vincent Francia tells Axios Phoenix.
  • "It would've shut us down," he said.

Zoom in: Losing out on the last six weeks of racing at Turf Paradise would've been especially costly for local horsemen because Arizona Downs in Prescott Valley won't have a summer racing season this year, Francia said.

  • He said the lack of summer racing at Arizona Downs is putting horse owners in "quite a state of panic."
  • That means owners will have to ship horses out of state for the summer season. Last year, those costs were about $1,100 to ship each horse to Washington state, $1,200 to Prairie Meadows racetrack in Iowa and $1,500 to the Canterbury Park track in Minnesota, according to Leroy Gessmann, executive director of the Arizona Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association.
  • Francia says the money they earn in the last stretch of the Turf Paradise season will help horse owners cover those costs.

Between the lines: Arizona Downs did not submit any 2023 race dates for approval to the state's racing commission, per Department of Gaming spokesperson Max Hartgraves.

  • The deadline has passed for the track to submit race dates for this year.
  • Representatives of Arizona Downs did not return messages from Axios Phoenix.
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