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.

The latest on Gulfstream Park, the Florida Derby and COVID-19

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.

New Zealand Horse Racing Shut Down

From horsebetting.com.au

All racing in New Zealand is to be shut down for four weeks as the country moves to level four of the Covid-19 alert system.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing New Zealand, Greyhound Racing New Zealand and the TAB, have met to discuss what steps the industry needs to take to protect the livelihoods of participants..

“While the country will effectively be in lockdown, the welfare of our animals remains as an essential service during this time,” NZ Thoroughbred Racing said.

“Horses and dogs will still need to be fed, exercised and cared for during this time.

“People caring for our animals will need to look at stringent procedures around staffing levels and any contact between staff members.

“We recognise that these are challenging times for everyone within our industry and we will be working closely with those impacted to help them through the coming weeks.”

New Zealand has been on level three alert and will move to level four from Wednesday which means:

  • People instructed to stay at home
  • Educational facilities closed
  • Businesses closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics) and lifeline utilities.
  • Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities
  • Travel severely limited
  • Major reprioritisation of healthcare services.

No Racing at Gulfstream Park Today. Laurel, Aqueduct, Rosecroft Cancel

Laurel, Aqueduct, Rosecroft have cancelled racing until further noticed.

GULFSTREAM PARK ANNOUNCES NEW HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

RACING TO PAUSE FRIDAY AND RESUME SATURDAY FOR JOCKEYS’ ROOM UPDATE

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – At Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows, the health, safety and welfare of every person and every horse in our community is our top priority. With that in mind, Gulfstream Park will suspend racing for one day, Friday, March 20, to update its protocols in a number of areas, including the Jockeys’ Room. Racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday, March 21.

Gulfstream Park grandstand copyright All Star Press 2012Last week, Gulfstream Park took strict measures to limit exposure by closing the facility to the public for live racing and simulcast. Gulfstream Park has operated in full compliance with all government and local health orders, while ensuring the protection of the essential personnel that care for the over 3,200 horses that are stabled at Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows.

The following protocols have been implemented at Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields and the Maryland Jockey Club and are now in force at Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows.

Controlled Access and Documentation:

* Following recommended guidelines by health and government authorities, limited gatherings will be enforced in compliance with current recommendations for social distancing.

* These specific areas include the Receiving Barn, Saddling Barn, Jockeys’ Room, Grandstand, Track Kitchen, Morning Clocker Stands.

* Only horses racing and shipping from in-state training centers – and accompanied by essential, licensed personnel – will be allowed to the stable entry gates.

* Once at the stable entry gate, essential personnel will be tested by American Medical Response (AMR).

* Horses will only be allowed to enter the stable areas of Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m.

* Security personnel at Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows will log personnel allowed in those areas by name, date and time.

Restricted Access to the Grandstand/Saddling Paddock:

* Only trainers and essential personnel licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Racing who have horses running that day are allowed on the track in the afternoon.

* Essential personnel include racing officials as designated by the state, safety staff (ambulance drivers, track maintenance crew) and specialized janitorial staff to sanitize the facility.

* To limit outside exposure, no owners, media or fans will be allowed on the track.

* No guests, no exceptions.

* No congregating in any areas.

* Walking ring is closed to everyone other than personnel required to accompany each horse to and from the saddling barn or racetrack. Jockeys will get on their horses in the saddling barn, not the paddock, and proceed directly to the racetrack for the post parade and warm up.

* All starting gates will be disinfected between every race and all gate crew will be required to wear gloves and will have no physical contact between them.

* Additional sanitation and handwashing stations have been installed at Gulfstream Park.

* Escalated cleaning schedules throughout relevant facilities, including a focused sanitization on high touch areas such as doorknobs, buttons, handrails, counter tops.

* All non-essential personnel will not be permitted on grounds.

* Non-essential personnel to be prohibited includes all public service employees (e.g., food service, wagering tellers, ushers, admission staff).

* No wagering or food service available in the grandstand.

* Press Box will be closed.

* Official chart callers to use their designated office space only.

Restricted Access to the Jockeys’ Room and Jockeys’ Room Protocol:

* Only essential personnel licensed by the state and jockeys scheduled to ride in races will be allowed in the Jockeys’ Room.

* All jockeys and essential personnel only in the Jockeys’ Room (including Valets and Clerk of the Scales) will have their temperatures tested daily. Anyone showing any signs of illness will be denied access to the premises.

* Jockeys’ Room lockers and workstations will be spaced a minimum of the required six feet apart.

* All jockeys will be required to wear riding gloves at all times.

* Jockeys are prohibited from any physical contact between themselves and others.

* Jockeys are required to leave the Jockeys’ Room immediately following their last ride.

* Sauna and extraneous facilities are closed. Showers will remain open and will be sanitized frequently throughout the day.

* Travel for jockeys will be restricted and a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine is in effect for all jockeys and personnel who have travelled internationally.

Restricted Access to Stables and Morning Training:

* Only trainers with horses stabled at Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West, Palm Meadows and essential personnel licensed by the state who are responsible for the care of the horses (veterinarians, grooms, exercise riders, farriers) are allowed in the stable area.

* All personnel will be required to sign in and out each time they enter and exit the stable area.

* Stable cafeteria will remain open to serve essential personnel only.

* Users will be encouraged to carry out their food.

* All public areas of the grandstand will be closed for morning workouts, including all private clockers.

NYRA Shuts Down Aqueduct after Worker Contracts Virus

Aqueduct will be shutting down racing operations immediately and indefinitely after a backstretch worker at Belmont Park tested positive for coronavirus. ~ David Grening, DRF, 3/19/20

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced that live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack will occur behind closed doors until further notice.

The decision follows today’s announcement by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban gatherings of 500 or more people to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We believe that the most prudent decision to protect the health and well-being of all involved in our sport is to conduct upcoming race dates without attendees,” said NYRA CEO & President Dave O’Rourke. “NYRA will continue to actively monitor this evolving situation and make further adjustments as necessary in consultation and collaboration with the New York State Gaming Commission.”

Did the Tampa Bay Derby make sense? Read Art Parker’s analysis

Until further notice, only essential racetrack staff required to officiate and report on live racing per New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) rules, including, but not limited to, stewards, licensed owners, trainers, assistant trainers and grooms, will be permitted on-site.

Carriage horse advocates wants New York racing stopped while COVID-19 crisis continuesA recently formed NYRA Preparedness and Response Plan Committee, comprised of key NYRA staff members as well as representatives from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America (NYRTCA), will monitor and assess developments regarding the coronavirus.

NYRA will continue to follow best practices established by the New York State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Live racing at the Aqueduct winter meet in March is conducted three days per week, Friday through Sunday. Live racing resumes Friday, March 13 at the Big A with a nine-race card. First post is 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

As a courtesy to fans, all NYRA racing can be streamed for free in high-definition at NYRA.com/aqueduct/racing/live. This service is provided by RTN.

Racing at Aqueduct is slated to continue through the conclusion of the spring meet on April 19. Live racing will then move to Belmont Park for the 51-day spring/summer meet which kicks off on April 24.

Source: New York Racing Association

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) holds the exclusive franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

NYRA tracks are the cornerstone of New York State’s thoroughbred industry, which is responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual statewide economic impact.

Accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, NYRA is a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, a group of the nation’s leading racing organizations working collaboratively to advance safety reforms across the sport.

Over the course of 217 days of live racing in 2019, NYRA generated more than $2.1 billion in all-sources wagering handle with paid attendance exceeding 1.5 million.

Aqueduct, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields to Race Without Fans

Source: The Stronach Group

In response to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recommendation to cancel gatherings of more than 250 people throughout the state to slow the spread of COVID-19, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields will close to the public effective immediately. Both tracks will continue to race as scheduled, with personnel licensed by the California Horse Racing Board allowed to attend.

Empty row of seats at racetrack“We heard Gov. Newsom’s call and we are responding accordingly for the protection of our customers and employees,” said Aidan Butler, Acting Executive Director, California Operations, The Stronach Group. “Much like other sports which have chosen to play without spectators, we will race with the personnel necessary to ensure the safety of the horses and the integrity of the sport. It is in everyone’s best interest to take these steps and we appreciate everyone’s understanding of this unique situation.”

In addition to being closed to the public for live racing, the venues also are closed for simulcast wagering and morning workouts, including Santa Anita’s Clocker’s Corner and tram tours.

As the COVID-19 outbreak is a fluid situation, the policy will be evaluated on a daily basis on the advice of governmental and health authorities.

Source: NYRA

Aqueduct will also hold horse races without fans starting Friday, March 13, 2020.

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