By Churchill Downs Press Staff – It was a welcome sight to the entire horse racing community as the first vans arrived into the Churchill Downs Stable Gate early Monday morning from Fair Grounds in New Orleans. There were approximately 175 horses scheduled to be on the grounds by the end of the day, according to senior director of the stable area Steve Hargrave.
“We’re so glad to be coming home,” trainer Greg Foley said.
Foley, who lives with his family in Oldham County, Ky., had to experience an unplanned, extended stay in New Orleans following the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed entry to the backside at Churchill Downs by nearly two months.
Foley is annually one of the first trainers to arrive at Churchill Downs and he held the tradition Monday as part of his string of horses were the first to pass the Stable Gate at 6 a.m. (all times Eastern).
Other trainers that arrived Monday included Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Bret Calhoun, Steve Margolis and Al Stall Jr.
Prior to their arrival at Churchill Downs, approximately 295 COVID-19 tests were administered to all stable employees from Fair Grounds. There have been an additional 580 tests completed at Churchill Downs by Wild Health of Lexington.
Approximately 300 additional horses will be shipped into Churchill Downs from Fair Grounds over the next two days. Horses stabled in Florida are scheduled to arrive May 14-16 while horses from Arkansas are slated to arrive May 17-19. Horses that have been stabled in Kentucky and other locales can arrive starting on May 20.
Many top horses were on the first vans back to Churchill Downs including Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Serengeti Empress, multiple graded stakes winner Mr. Money and likely Matt Winn Stakes (GIII) contenders Major Fed and Mr. Big News.
Racing is scheduled to begin Saturday at Churchill Downs with a first post of 1 p.m. Entries for Saturday’s races will close on Tuesday.
As part of the provisions to resume live racing under strict guidelines and protocols, racing will be conducted spectator-free at Churchill Downs with no fans, owners or media until government officials lift restrictions.
Only authorized racetrack employees and KHRC license holders who are providing support for a horse stabled at the facility are permitted on property.
This specifically includes only trainers with horses stabled or racing on the facility grounds and those who are responsible for the care of the horses (veterinarians, grooms, exercise riders and farriers).