Plainville, MA — After a three month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Plainridge Park will kick off its 2020 live harness racing season on Monday (July 13) with a 4 p.m. post time for the first race.
The track will welcome fans back to the track that day to watch the races live, but strict safety protocols will be in place and followed to ensure the health and well being of the track’s patrons and employees. Everyone will have their temperature checked upon arrival and are required to wear a mask at all times. Spectators can only gather in groups of six or less and must maintain social distancing while doing so. There will also be sanitizing stations located throughout the facility.
Food and soft drinks will be available in the grandstand but they must be consumed in designated areas and no alcoholic beverages will be served at this time.
The meet that was supposed to start on Monday (April 6), will now consist of 68 racing days that will be contested on Monday, Thursday and Friday afternoons with post time at 4 p.m. for all racing days. The post time will change to 2 p.m. on Thursday (Sept. 4) and then once again to 1 p.m. on Monday (Nov. 2).
There are two exceptions to this regular schedule. Racing will be held on Sunday (July 26) at 2 p.m. when the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and Clara Barton Distaff Pace will be contested and also on Wednesday (Nov. 25) at 1 p.m. in place of Thursday (Nov. 26) in observance of Thanksgiving.
There will be a full menu of wagering for those following the action at Plainridge whether live or via simulcast including an early and late double, exacta and trifecta in every race and superfectas offered in select races on each card.
The track’s Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta will also be back and joined by a brand new wager this year. The Bay State Pick-6 will debut on opening day as a 10-cent minimum wager that will begin in race three and run through race eight.
On the track, all the leading drivers and trainers from 2019 will return to vie for 2020 honors.
Mitchell Cushing won the dash title last year with 170 wins followed by Drew Campbell with 137 and Shawn Gray with 130. Gray finished the meet as the top money earner with $1.25 million in purses ahead of two other million dollar drivers, Cushing ($1.22) and Campbell ($1.05). Gray also had the best Universal Driver Rating (UDR) of .381 ahead of Cushing (.355) and Plainridge newcomer Drew Monti (.324).
Looking at the resident trainers, Jimmy Nickerson took conditioning honors after winning 58 races at the meet. Jim Hardy finished second with 47 tallies and Elisha LaFreniere was third with 40 scores. Domenico Cecere (36) and Mike Graffam (33) also had strong seasons finishing fourth and fifth.
Although the meet will be abbreviated, there will still be a full schedule of stakes races including a stop by the Grand Circuit in late July.
Plainridge Park’s signature stake, the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and sister stake, the $100,000 Clara Barton Pace for fillies and mares, will be held on Sunday (July 26) and will feature some of the best Open trotters and pacers competing in North America today.
Eligibles to the Spirit include last year’s winner Guardian Angel AS along with Atlanta, Manchego and Gimpanzee, to name only a few of the 29 top-notch trotters that are eligible.
And in the Barton, last year’s winner, current Plainridge track record holder and 2019 Dan Patch Horse of the Year, Shartin N, will lead a field of 20 distaff pacers who are eligible to the second running of this stake.
Then in September, the lucrative Massachusetts Sire Stakes will kick off and highlight the best 2- and 3-year-old Massachusetts-bred trotters and pacers around. The stake features three preliminary legs for age, gender and gait followed by finals. Last year the total series purses topped $1.8 million.
Here is the complete Massachusetts Sire Stake schedule.
Sunday (Sept. 27) — 3-year-old first leg
Monday (Sept. 28) — 2-year-old first leg
Sunday (Oct. 4) — 3-year-old second leg
Monday (Oct. 5) — 2-year-old second leg
Sunday (Oct. 18) — 2-year-old third leg
Monday (Oct. 19) — 3-year-old third leg
Monday (Oct. 26) — 2- and 3-year-old finals