News and STORIES

Tracks Will Run Races Without Spectators Due to COVID-19

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Friday March 13, 2020
Horse Racing is one more industry that is being affected by the spread of COVID-19 as new policies are hitting the local, state, and national levels. 

As of March 12, the states of California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York will implement new policies. The tracks will continue to run but without spectators.

These policies are being implemented globally; the March 28 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), along with its supporting program, will run without patrons as well. 

U.S. Racetracks

Starting immediately, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields will close to the public. Racing will continue as scheduled, but only individuals licensed by the California Horse Racing Board will be permitted to attend.

Shortly after the announcements from Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, the New York Racing Association announced that live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack will be closed to the public until further notice. 

Churchill Downs Inc. announced the March 14 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) program at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky will also run without spectators. 

Preparations at Churchill Downs for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) are still continuing as planned. 

"With the event still seven weeks away, a decision will be made closer to that date with respect to postponing the event until later in the year, using the most recent information while working with and seeking guidance from public health experts and authorities," a release stated.

Another announcement came from Keeneland, which will open its April 2 spring meet without spectators. Individuals who are directly connected to the horses running will receive a limited amount of credentials. The track announced that it will consider reopening its doors to the public on April 15 after consulting government officials and health authorities. 

Keeneland canceled its April 2-Year-Olds in Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale, which was set for April 7. 

The Maryland Jockey Club will continue live racing as scheduled, but Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, and Rosecroft Raceway facilities will be closed to the public effective immediately. 

"We will continue to monitor the situation and will look forward to welcoming our fans and guests again soon," read a Maryland Jockey Club release. 

Gulfstream Park announced that the track will also temporarily close to the public for racing and simulcasting. 

The South Florida track will continue racing as scheduled, but only individuals licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering will be permitted to attend. 

The March 28 Curling Florida Derby (G1) will be closed to the public but will still run. 

Banned Gatherings of More than 250

The track announcements come after officials, such as California Governor Gavin Newsom, announced gatherings of over 250 people should be postponed or canceled.

"The state's public health experts have determined that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March," Newsom stated. "Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of six feet per person. 

"Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines."

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people to fight the spread of the virus. 

"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 and 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."