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Turf Paradise will not hold races this year due to coronavirus outbreak

Owner Jerry Simms said he did not want to take on the liability of racing during the pandemic.
Credit: AP
A horse is quarantined at Turf Paradise horse track, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, in Phoenix. Turf Paradise has euthanized one horse and is quarantining two others in the wake of a herpes outbreak that surfaced in New Mexico.(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Turf Paradise, the famed horse racetrack in Phoenix, will not hold any races this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Owner Jerry Simms informed the Arizona Racing Commission on Thursday that they must decline the proposed 121-day race dates, which would have spanned from November to May. 

In a press release, Turf Paradise officials said "the restrictions on larger crowds at the facility combined with the economic uncertainties associated with periodic closures and necessary social distance requirements make it impossible for Turf Paradise to conduct a financially practical race meet for both the track and the horsemen."

About 1,000 people work in close proximity in the stable area, officials said. 

The racetrack is located in north Phoenix, near 19th Avenue and Bell Road. It has been in operation for 64 years.

It first opened its doors on Jan. 7, 1956, two years after businessman Walter Cluer purchased 1,400 acres of barren desert.

It went through two owners before being purchased by by California-based Hollywood Park Racetrack in 1994 and multi-millionaire Jerry Simms. 

Turf Paradise was also forced to start giving pre-race veterinary examinations to all horses back in 2019 in an attempt to curb a rise in fatalities at the time.

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, 45 horses were euthanized during the 2017-18 season at the Phoenix track. That same season, 27 horses died from racing-related injuries.

The season typically lasts just over six months. The 133-day live meet was originally scheduled to run from Oct. 17 to May 1, 2021. The new schedule was set for Nov. 27 to May 1, for 110 live race days.


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