We’re off to the races as a popular event makes its return to Erie today.

We headed over to Presque Isle Downs with a look at the return of horse racing and what will be different this year.

The stands might be empty, but there is plenty of excitement on the track as the first race just wrapped up.

Before the racers could get here however, there was a lot of work to be done to help keep everyone safe.

It is a moment that many people have waited for.

“It feels fantastic. I’ve been off for a year so it feels better than ever,” said Amanda Schwartz, Horse Jockey.

Thoroughbred horses are back on the track at Presque Isle Downs and Casino, but this year is nothing like they have experienced before.

“We have 19 jockeys who will be out 19 jocks throughout the entire season racing at our track here at Presque Isle. There will be no going to another track to run. We do give them that opportunity, but before returning to our track they must quarantine for 14 days and supply a negative COVID test,” said Matthew Ennis, Director of Finance and Racing for Presque Isle Downs and Casino.

The horses are also being welcomed back with a new track.

“We spent almost $200,000 on this track to resurface it with special topeda and once they worked that topeda in they then can come and put this wax fluid in so throughout this weekend its actually been running through the track. So right now it is probably one of the safest tracks in America,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, Vice President and General Manager of Presque Isle Downs and Casino.

As a fan, you are not allowed to be in the stands this year, but that does not mean you can’t still place a bet if you would like.

“Bourbon and Brew will be opened the entire time through racing. You would have to make a reservation to eat and of course if you wanted to order alcohol or anything as such you’d have to order a meal,” said O’Sullivan.

For the first two weeks, there will be races Monday through Wednesday and then after that the casino will revert to a Monday through Thursday race card.

The last day of racing is scheduled for October 22nd.

Something else that is different is the 4:45 p.m. post time for racers which is a little bit earlier than what they are used to.