Archives for March 25, 2020

COVID-19 and Horse Racing

Good luck at sorting this out

By ART PARKER

Like everyone else I was disappointed when the Kentucky Derby was postponed. I did a double take when the proposed new date was September 5, the first Saturday in September. My next thought was the scheduling mess that would most assuredly come, especially since the full impact of the coronavirus  (COVID-19) remains unknown.

The new date of the Derby is not too close to the Breeder’s Cup, scheduled for the first Saturday in November at Keeneland. What happens to the other big races could be the real problem.

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The first thought I had was the Travers. I think many will agree that the Travers is the most important three year old race next to the Derby. If a horse wins the Derby and the Preakness then the importance of the Belmont is elevated beyond the Travers, but generally speaking I feel the Travers is second only to the Derby.

Saratoga canopy walk throughThe Travers is scheduled for August 29, just one week before the rescheduled Derby. It can’t happen that way. It just can’t. To make matters worse the Alabama is scheduled for August 22, less than two full weeks for the new Kentucky Oaks date of September 4. To me the Alabama is the premier race for three year old fillies. Having the Alabama that close to the Oaks? Again, it can‘t happen that way.

The Saratoga problems begin with the rescheduling of the Derby, but it could be worse depending upon what happens with the Preakness and the Belmont. I read the other day that someone suggested we start with the Derby on September 5 and then wait two weeks for the Preakness and then wait three weeks for the Belmont – the usual intervals between Triple Crown races. If so, that would put the Belmont on October 10 four weeks before the Breeder’s Cup. Some may think this is workable but it would place the better three year olds in a whirlwind of activity in a very short period of time. I believe it will provide the older horses in the Classic Division a big advantage over the sophomores.

Unless the Preakness and Belmont are run before the Derby then the Triple Crown will cause problems for the Breeder’s Cup, unless those races are cancelled. If the Preakness and Belmont are run before the Derby then huge problems are created for the Saratoga meeting, and possibly others.

Added to this is the difficulty of planning a path for a three year old. Trainers will have a difficult time finding appropriate prep races if the racing world remains in its current state. One major issue that has a guiding hand over the timing of races is television. Racing cannot afford to lose the airwaves for the huge races. Even if television goes along for fall racing broadcasts then there will be a fight with college football early in its season – a fight guaranteed to result in cuts and bruises.

How much leadership does the American racing industry have? We will soon know the answer.