26 March 2020

Coronavirus Predictions

When it comes to the Coronavirus, nobody knows for sure, but there sure as heck isn't a shortage of opinions and predictions, so let me join the party.

I think the biggest hint we got was yesterday. And it wasn't from someone hoping churches are filled Easter Day, it was the details of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. For a government to dole out $2,000 per affected worker as a one shot deal is a big thing, but to give it out for four months is a huge thing. The government is telling us that much of the economy is going to be in the dumps for at least 4 months. They could have said three months, and many people would have been equally relieved (relative relief that is vs. no bail out).

The Woodbine Entertainment CEO kinda sorta put out an unofficial hopeful date of July 1 as the start up date for Woodbine's thoroughbred season with lots of caveats added. It could be sooner, it could be next year as well. I think that the date will depend on what happens in the UK but mostly in the US. Will Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs and Santa Anita continue to run without a major backstretch outbreak of positives (not talking Navarro positives....actually the positives didn't exist because he was using grey area magic to win races....but that is another can of performance enhancer worms horse racing will have to deal with very soon) or a government shutdown order?

Can the backstretch maintain the 6 foot social distancing rule enough? How important is horse racing really? Does it really have the agriculture industry impact it states it has? We'll see if racing starts up again in Ohio and Pennsylvania in April. Many are hoping for early April. I doubt it in most cases. I strongly believe we are going to see some ugly numbers when it comes to Coronavirus casualties just before the flattening of the curve (I really hope I'm wrong, but science is usually right). And factoring in March break returnees and the fact the States were late to react and Canada was even later, I think it might take until the last week of April to see that flattening, maybe a little longer in Canada.

On a more optimistic note, Singapore has found a way to keep their casino open, and I think it is a pretty fair bet that the virus has a better chance to spread in a casino than a horsemen only racetrack. Governments love casinos. If they could keep them open they would. And in a lot of jurisdictions horse racing exists only because of casino revenue. This is making me think that much of the decision to not let races go on without people in the stands is tied into when is a reasonable date to open up the casinos.

I'm predicting late April, early May for racing in North America to wind back in gear without people in the stands. I expect to see the UK back up third week of April. After all, horse racing is the only game in town (too bad even if they were running right now and for those few tracks running, the game just won't catch on because of the high rake mo matter how little competition there is).

With Churchill Downs announcing the Kentucky Derby's September date, I wonder if that opens the door for a later date going forward. Not September but maybe July or August. I think it would be good for the game. More durable horses, more mature horses to choose from, a race with a lot more quality. We might not get the quality this year due to the stoppage, but if this was a normal year with a later Derby, well you get my point.