06/26/2015 12:11PM

Parx plans fall festival, capital improvements


The management of Parx Racing and the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have agreed on an updated racing schedule for August and for next winter and to the creation of an eight-week fall festival at the Bensalem, Pa., racino.

The PTHA board of directors has signed off on the new initiatives and on Friday explained the details to Parx horsemen.

“We received a great reception from the horsemen,” said Mike Ballezzi, executive director of the PTHA. “They understand what we are trying to do – protect live racing and protect purses.”

The fall festival will begin Aug. 29 and run through Oct. 20. During the festival, purses will be doubled on practically all races, and stakes will be added on Saturday cards that don’t have a stakes currently scheduled.

“During the 32 racing days of the festival, purses, including stakes, will be approximately $500,000 per day,” Ballezzi said.

Preference for entering horses during the festival will be given to horsemen stabled on the grounds over out-of-town trainers, according to Ballezzi.

“Money allowances will be $100,000, three-other-thans will be $90,000,” said Sam Elliott, the director of racing at Parx. “The festival will cover all of our biggest days: Smarty Jones Day, Labor Day weekend, and Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Day.”

The agreement also calls for Parx to spend $4.4 million in capital improvements for the horsemen. In addition to the track being open for training 365 days a year and kept in racing condition each morning, the improvements are:

◗ Four new barns will be built, bringing the total number of new barns at Parx to 33.

◗ Rubber pavers will be installed in the paddock, walking ring, and winner’s circle.

◗ The entire backstretch will be repaved before the end of 2015.

◗ A new safety rail will be installed before the end of 2016. “Probably sooner than that,” Ballezzi said.

◗ The backstretch administration building will be refurbished.

The schedule changes call for Parx to take a break from racing after the conclusion of the Tuesday, Aug. 11, card. The track will reopen Saturday, Aug. 29, which is when the Grade 3, $300,000 Smarty Jones for 3-year-olds will be run.

Parx, which basically races 12 months a year, has in some prior years taken a break in August.

Parx also will close for seven weeks this coming winter. There will be no racing from Dec. 27 until Feb. 13.

Parx has had to cancel a number of racing days due to winter weather in recent years. This past winter, 18 days were canceled.