Coronavirus has shut down the sports world, with a few exceptions.
The NFL and WNBA Drafts provided sports fans with action, albeit away from the field of play. Wrestlemania was still available to watch for a pay-per-view audience, held without fans in the stands at the WWE Training Center. One sport continued with minimal changes, the sport of kings.
Horse racing has been the greatest benefactor from the changes in the sports calendar. Even though the biggest venues have been shuttered — Keeneland, Aqueduct, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs — racecourses across America have seen a dramatic increase in wagers being placed at their respective tracks.
Unlike most other sports, horse racing was built to operate without fans in attendance. Aside from the big race days, only a couple hundred fans may fill the stands on a regular basis. They also had the infrastructure to wager online ready in place, creating the perfect storm for tracks in the South.
Horse Racing Nation compiled statistics from five North American tracks that have remained open during the pandemic. The year-to-year increases through the first two weeks of April are staggering.
Oaklawn Park only had a 74% increase. The reason why? Typically the Arkansas Derby is ran through that window. Instead, it was delayed to the first Saturday in May to fill the void left by the postponed Kentucky Derby. There are so many three-year-olds vying to enter the gate, the race could be split into two divisions next week to appease the high demand.