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Christmas Week Brings A Short Menu Of Horse Racing Options

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • Christmas Week is typically one of the slowest of the year for horse racing.
  • 2020 will be even slower due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Racing from Europe and Australia will help to supplement the meager North American offerings.

COVID-19 is making this a Christmas unlike any other but in the horse racing world at least there is a sense of familiarity to the Holiday Week. In most years, Christmas Week is the slowest of the year for the equine world making the upcoming week ‘business as usual’ for 2020–only more so.

In most of the world, you can forget having a nice Christmas outing with the family *at* the track this year. Some of my fondest Christmas memories involve spending the day with my Uncle Jack during the holiday week. We’d head over to 7-Eleven and pick up a carton of Viceroy Cigarettes after which we’d make a b-line for the local horse track. Thanks to the magic of simulcasting we could bet on horses from all over the country even if the local facility wasn’t running a live meet (and they usually weren’t).

ESPN’s Jay Cronley has his own memories of Christmas at the horse track:

Christmas at the track begins in the parking lot, pulling in next to a junk heap with different colored fenders and a green wreath hooked to the hood.

I wish the majority of the people at the races would quit driving vehicles that are in bad shape.

Sometimes it’s depressing, parking next to cardboard in a window on one side, and a coat hanger radio antenna on the other side.

Plastic trees and man-made garlands are used to decorate most race tracks and simulcast venues.

Some might find it depressing to glance upon a crooked synthetic tree with nothing under it except beer cups and bad tickets. But I like the surreal shades of Christmas at the horse races, the smoky blues and shiny chestnuts.

Sometimes I buy the guys who could obviously stand it a five-buck ticket for Christmas, a five-dollar cash voucher.

Guess what.

All of them bet it before the 25th.

There was a time when Christmas Day was the traditional winter meet opening at Santa Anita Park.

This year will be different but there should still be plenty of horse racing–relatively speaking–for the holiday week. Uncle Jack would probably be proud that I’ve left Viceroy cigarettes well in the past and have moved up to high end cigars–like the Padron 1964 Anniversary series that I’ll be enjoying this year.


Santa Anita Park is still advertising December 26, 2020 as their opening day. I’d consider that tentative since the state and local governments in California would no doubt love to shut it down in the name of COVID-19 abatement. Why do you think everyone is leaving California and moving to Nevada?

Monday racing is at least tentatively scheduled for Mountaineer Park, Parx Racing, New Mexico’s Zia Park, Delta Downs, Mahoning Valley and Remington Park. Penn National will join the party on Tuesday with Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs also scheduled for Wednesday.

The pace will slow Christmas Eve with only the two Florida tracks–Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs–scheduled to offer live racing. You won’t find racing at any US track on Christmas Day but December 26 will offer Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Tampa Bay Downs along with Laurel Park and Turfway Park.

Pending how things go at Santa Anita–I’ll believe that Gavin Newsome will let them open when I actually see horses on the track–Sunday and Monday (27th and 28th) will also be slow going. Fair Grounds and Laurel Park are scheduled for Sunday with Fair Grounds and Delta Downs set for Monday.

Hopefully, we’ll have some good news in the horse racing world to look forward to in 2021. From the standpoint of a horse racing fan it would be hard to get any worse! If enough people go get vaccinated we could be back at the horse track–or at least the race book or simulcasting facility–in a matter of months!

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