Harrisburg, PA — The Keystone State’s three harness racing tracks have been approved for 449 live racing programs in 2022 under action taken by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission at its Nov. 30 meeting.
The number is expected to increase to 450 based upon a request by Hollywood Casino at The Meadows to add one day to the calendar. The PHRC will address that modification and any others at its Dec. 14 meeting.
Based on the approved submissions, The Meadows requested 183 days, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono 136, and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack 130. In 2021, the three facilities were approved for 472 racing programs.
The Meadows will race from Jan. 5 through Dec. 30. Racing will be held three days a week through early April on a Wednesday-through-Friday schedule before a break for track maintenance. From April 20 through Sept. 17, racing is scheduled for four days a week (Wednesday through Saturday). After a one-week break during the Little Brown Jug program in Ohio, racing will be offered four days a week (Tuesday through Friday) until the end of the year.
The standard post time at The Meadows is 12:45 p.m., but Scott Lishia, director of racing at The Meadows, said an experiment in the fall of 2021 that moved first post time on Fridays to 4 p.m. was “overall a very good success,” and that it could continue for part of 2022. It was done in connection with a the opening of a new outdoor bar on the apron, called Embers, in an effort to bring more people out for live racing.
“We saw a large amount of people come out,” Lishia told PHRC members. “Evening racing worked well. Our on-track handle was up 50 percent to 75 percent, while overall handle was hit a little bit (with the post time change). But it’s something we think we can build on in 2022, and we’re thinking about expanding Embers into the race book area.”
Pocono will open Feb. 12 and end its meet Nov. 19. Racing is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in February, and Saturday through Monday in March until mid-April. From late April through early September, the schedule calls for racing four days a week, Saturday through Tuesday. Beginning Sept. 12, racing will be held Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays for the most part through the end of the meet. First post time will move to 1:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sunday post time remains 5 p.m.
The Harrah’s Philadelphia meet begins April 3 and ends Dec. 24 under the usual schedule of Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There will be no Wednesday racing the first five weeks of the meet and no Wednesday cards after August. Standard post times are 12:25 p.m. on weekdays and 12:40 p.m. on Sundays, though there are a few variations, including programs that will begin at 6:30 p.m.
In other business, Barry Brown, director of racing operations at Harrah’s Philadelphia, said the track, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, requested to alter the racing schedule for the final month of 2021 to hopefully increase field size. Instead of four-day race weeks, Harrah’s proposed to race three days a week but extend the season beyond the original end date of Dec. 26 to Dec. 31.
“We’ve suffered from horse population issues,” Brown said. “We’ll hope for full fields to finish what has been a very strong season.”