A nearly empty grandstand is seen while racers make their way around the track during a harness race at the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway at Bass Park in Bangor. Credit: Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Bangor Raceway’s long-awaited start to its harness racing season, postponed since May by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, beginning at 5 p.m.

Mike Cushing, the president of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, said racing at Bass Park will be held every Wednesday and Sunday for at least 10 weeks.

He also said Scarborough Downs, which had held racing without spectators from June 3 until July 10 before closing down due to financial issues, will re-open for racing on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Scarborough will hold races on Aug. 5, 8, 11, 12 and 15 with all of its post times being at 1:30 p.m.

Once Bangor Raceway begins racing, Scarborough will hold its races on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m.

All of Bangor’s race cards will start at 5 p.m.

“We don’t want them racing head-to-head against each other,” explained Cushing.

Both tracks will be able to have a limited number of spectators in the grandstands as Gov. Janet Mills has relaxed some of the coronavirus restrictions. They will be allowed to have a maximum of 200.

Social distancing and safety protocols will be in place.

Cushing said Scarborough Downs will have spectators in the grandstands but he isn’t sure if Bangor Raceway will in its early stages.

“We will feel a little bit normal,” Cushing said. “We will be ponying up [no pun intended] some of the cost of operating but it’s good to go back to work.”

He said the horsemen decided to help with the operating costs at Scarborough Downs to get the track back on its feet.

Bangor Raceway’s opening will come approximately five weeks after the reopening of the Hollywood Casino and Raceway in Bangor.

Another obstacle was that the COVID-19 testing site is currently located in the Bass Park complex, but officials told Cushing they could co-exist with the harness racing community and he indicated that he expects testing to move to a new location.

Cushing said it took a collaborative effort between the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and the management at the two tracks to get the harness race season back on track.

“Without their participation and cooperation, we wouldn’t be where we are,” he said.

He added that Bangor Raceway will hold the Maine Breeders Stakes Trotting and Pacing finals for 2-year-olds for the first time in over seven years. That will be held in October.

Scarborough Downs will host the finals for the 3-year-olds.