HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Nearly a month after their casino reopened its doors, Ellis Park opened the gates to this year’s racing season.
The new season brings more than photo finishes, it brings new changes for horse racing fans.
“It’s an annual event. It’s kind of like baseball. Every summer, Ellis Park opens,” said Henderson Mayor Steve Austin.
When this annual season started today, how these fans saw it was different.
“It’s a little bit of a hassle. At least we’re able to be here,” said Tiffinia McCarty, who was at Ellis’s opening day.
Instead of filling the grandstand, which is blocked off to fans for now, they were filling tables reserved for them inside. It’s one of several changes the park made before they could resume racing for this season.
“it’s better,” said Ron Bornander of Owensboro. The air conditioning is working. The place looks clean.” While he, who has season tickets, said he enjoyed the air conditioning and the races, he added the place felt quieter than usual.
“It’s not as loud, but at the same time, it’s still fun. Horses are horses,” said Bornander.
Beginning July 6, all guests at Ellis Park will be required to wear a face covering or mask except when eating, drinking, smoking or at guests’ reserved tables. Masks already are mandatory for Ellis Park employees and horsemen.
Reserved seating at tables is one of several changes required by the state before the racing season could start. General Manager Jeff Inman says while some fans questioned the changes, most he talked with were going along with them.
“I don’t understand why they want everyone inside, instead of outside, where we can space out,” said Bud Melton of Chandler, Ind.
The season’s start happens after the park reported seven positive cases from people who were working with a trainer last month. But Inman says no track workers tested positive. While some had questions about the changes, others are glad for this season, which includes a Kentucky Derby qualifier, to start.
“It’s giving them an opportunity to get out, participate, see their friends out here,” said Mayor Austin.
Inman also says while some daily purse totals will be several hundred thousand dollars, purses overall here and at other Kentucky tracks, are expected to be lower than in past years.
(This story was originally published on July 2, 2020)