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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Even if it doesn’t happen as quickly as the remaining three of four major circuits would like, plans signaling the resumption of racing at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park have cleared the drawing board stage.

With the New York Racing Association hoping to open Belmont Park on May 22. In a response to New York Gov Andrew Cuomo’s comments on Wednesday that cast doubt on the opening of Saratoga this summer, NYRA repeated the message that racing is uniquely qualified to resume without attendees.

In Kentucky, also on Wednesday, Churchill Downs Racetrack received approval from Commonwealth officials to reopen its stable areas at both Churchill Downs Racetrack and its Trackside training center on May 11 under stringent health guidelines that would mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Santa Anita Park, meanwhile, will publish a condition book today, hopeful to resume racing on May 15 under what likely will be the strictest health protocols in the industry, if not the country.

Of course, should racing resume at these venues, it will be spectator-free. Santa Anita published its condition book hoping it will allow time for horsemen to prepare for a possible May 15 resumption. Management had stated previously it would need two weeks for logistical preparation.

All these events are predicated on whether the states hit their metrics in stopping, or even lowering, the spread of coronavirus. However, a number of states have opened slowly even without meeting their standards, turning a serious health crisis into a political campaign football.

As with everything these days, any reopening comes down to three letters: TBD.

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8 Responses

  1. Cuomo is right to be concerned about crowds at the Spa, but NYRA is right, also. I hope there is racing at both Belmont and Saratoga…

    I’m most concerned about Santa Anita, because I don’t know where LA’s heads are at. If they do reopen, I’ll be excited because the racing out there is good, and I miss it. Plus, it means that the Santa Anita Derby will be run, and I’ve been waiting for that, lol. IF Santa Anita reopens, I wonder when the Derby would be run ….first weekend? Would they have to give enough time for trainers to point their horses for the race?

    1. Bets, don’t think you could stage the Santa Anita Derby right out of the box, but the first or second Saturday in June, normally Belmont Stakes time. It’s for real impossible what to know going to happen anywhere, anytime, in racing and beyond. We wait, we hope, we pray.

      1. True, true. As for racing without spectators, every other sport is dealing with the same things racing is, so I’m not sure it’s quite as bad as depicted below. The NBA may complete it’s season – without fans – and certainly people will bet on those games. Same with the NFL. MLB will probably start, but people don’t gamble as much on it as the other sports. Racing, of course, is. It in the same position as those sports, but I don’t think that anyone who loves the game will lose interest. Television could help by broadcasting older, classic races…

        1. God knows there are enough racing classics to go around featuring horses even non-racing fans would recognize…

  2. I hate to be redundant but racing without spectators is not racing. This is the chemotherapy to racing’s cancer. All this quick fix does is forestall the inevitable.

    Fans will start to drift away and owners will follow (or lead).

    The game will devolve into something resembling the World Series of Poker, sharks against sharks, with the public slowly but surely losing interest. Remember how ubiquitous poker was on TV? You don’t see or hear much about it anymore. What shows there are left are in the off hours.

    Racing without spectators, this is your future.

  3. TJ, I often have accused you of being cynical, but not this time. What you describe is movie we’ve all seen and generally endings, when not unhappy, just fade into gray, and then black…

  4. TJ,
    Thanks for the refreshing reminder that cancer lays in wait for those surviving the virus.

    Your opposition to spectator-free racing, even as a stop-gap measure to fund care for the horses, and to maintain public exposure, seems somewhat short-sighted.

    The “new normal” will include extended video communication, e.g., ZOOM, in all endeavors. All stakeholder groups already have the option of virtual box seats for interaction with associates. Owners will likely be the first allowed back on-track on days they have a horse in a race, but they could still bask in their limelight with remote video interviews.

    The pandemic will end eventually, but lack of integrity, etc., is racing’s true malignancy.

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