News and STORIES

Various Track Changes Due To COVID-19

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Thursday July 16, 2020
There have been various changes for the upcoming summer meets at several tracks around the country. The cancellations and postponements come as COVID-19 continues to cause issues for racing. 

The West Virginia Derby

The Aug. 1 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort has been canceled. According to a press release from the track, it was decided for the "health and welfare of all involved."

The West Virginia Derby is usually the highlight race on the Mountaineer Park racing calendar, and it was set to be $500,000 this year, which was the same as last year.

The Aug. 1 program was also going to include the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes (G3) in the afternoon.

The cancellation comes after it was announced by the track that there would be no spectators due to COVID-19.

Jason Pugh is the general manager of Mountaineer Park.

"We anxiously await next year's West Virginia Derby and look forward to making it a great day of racing," Pugh said in a release.

Despite the cancellation of the West Virginia Derby, live racing will continue there on a Sunday-Wednesday schedule.

The day-to-day racing at Mountaineer normally has smaller purses, with the usual range being between $6,000-$18,000. The races mostly have local horses and some from surrounding states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

However, the West Virginia Derby usually draws horses from out-of-state. In the 2019 edition, Mr. Money and Silver Dust arrived at Mountaineer from Kentucky, winning the West Virginia Derby and West Virginia Governor's Stakes, respectively, for trainer Bret Calhoun. 

The cancellation of the West Virginia Derby comes as several jockeys have tested positive for COVID-19, causing some tracks to close their facilities to out-of-state riders.

Last year, stakes races in West Virginia Derby Day were won by Gabe Saez, Jack Gilligan, Feargal Lynch, Florent Geroux, Abel Lezcano, Joe Bravo, and Carol Cedeno.

Lone Star Park

In other news, Lone Star Park has suspended racing after the first race July 5. The decision came after an employee involved in racing operations tested positive for COVID-19. The track is expected to be closed until at least July 19.

"The most recent information we have is that they will not conduct live racing until at least Sunday," said Robert Elrod, public information officer for the Texas Racing Commission.

Entries have been taken at Lone Star for July 20-21. When the card was canceled on July 5 after the first race, there were four stakes races lost. Those races are now listed on the July 21 overnight as "extra" races for July 22.

Due to the ongoing health and safety issues surrounding COVID-19, entries to the races does not mean the races will actually run. 

New York Racing Association

The New York Racing Association also announced additional safety measures on July 14 that will be in place throughout the summer's race meeting at Saratoga

The annual meet normally draws tens of thousands of visitors daily, and those customers will no longer be able to attend the track this year. Because of this, various groups have been forming through social media for viewing on the racetrack's perimeter. 

However, the NYRA has spoken out about this idea.

"We want you to enjoy this summer's meet," said NYRA communications director Pat McKenna, "but we are asking you to do so from the comfort of your home or backyard, at socially distanced and responsible watch parties."

"We can't have people come to the track and watch racing," said Saratoga Springs public safety commissioner Robin Dalton. 

Saratoga Spring officials have requested that NYRA install "privacy fencing" around the racecourse to deter people from watching the track from outside. The fencing would block the view of the track.