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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Derby Lane has made several changes as it gears toward the resumption of greyhound racing on Friday.

Instead of fans being able to watch the dogs live, the track announced Wednesday on its website that the facility would be closed to the public until further notice, and the poker room – initially said to be reopening next Monday – would remain closed.

Fans only will be able to watch and wager on the greyhound races on the internet.

“After further review, Derby Lane will remain closed to the public,’’ the track’s website announced on Wednesday. “We will begin official live racing on Friday, May 8th. Spectators will not be allowed on property; however, patrons may watch the official races on www.greyhoundchannel.com.

“Furthermore, The Derby Lane Poker Room will not be reopening. When the Poker Room does reopen you can expect us to adhere to all CDC guidelines, as well as implement health and safety precautions for employees and patrons alike.

“We look forward to bringing our employees back to work, and inviting patrons back to Historic Derby Lane. Until then, please stay healthy Tampa Bay.’’

Derby Lane will be racing for the first time in 49 days. It closed on March 20, a move initiated when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order concerning the spread of the coronavirus.

Six weekly performances are scheduled - all during the afternoon – from Monday through Saturday. All matinee cards are expected to feature 15 races with a 12:30 p.m. post time. Previously, Derby Lane held seven weekly performances, including night races on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Derby Lane, which is celebrating its 95th year of racing, lost 49 live performances, and greyhounds have not competed since March 19.

The change by Derby Lane reflects the environment at Palm Beach Kennel club in West Palm Beach, Fla., which began racing again this past Friday after a nearly seven-week hiatus. That track is racing without spectators, and its poker room also is closed.

The Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs, Fla., held its final race this past Sunday without live spectators, ending a 63-year run by the greyhounds in Bonita Springs. A new building for poker and simulcast wagering is being built in that area.

When racing resumes at Derby Lane, Lester Raines rests atop the 14-kennel win standings with 129 victories. ABC Racing is second at 119, followed by Capabal at 118 and Lashmet at 117. All-America first-team member and two-time reigning meet win leader LK’s Crush N It of Lashmet kennel and Shoot The Breeze of Floyd kennel are tied for the most wins at the meet with 11 apiece.

Don Jensen

I have been a sports writer in the newspaper industry for 40 years: working in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. I moved to Florida in 1984 after serving as the publicity director of Charles Town Race Track, a thoroughbred facility in West Virginia. I reside in Tampa, Fla., and cover the Tampa Bay area parimutuel scene – both greyhounds and thoroughbreds – and write about high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times.