I asked a trusted source if the rumors were true and he told me that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a.k.a. the President-by-Proxy, now considers horse racing an “essential industry.”
Read here that Cuomo wants and needs New York State’s share of the parimutuel takeout and that Aqueduct could reopen this weekend.
Money is needed everywhere, especially at the current pandemic epicenter where things still can get worse before they get better.
The more people who are able to work in a relatively safe manner, no oxymoron intended, should continue to do so.
The presumption is if that if Aqueduct does reopen, racing will be conducted without fans and probably without owners. Here’s hoping…
Good News and Bad as U S Trotting Association Office Remains Open
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has been aggressive in the handling of the pandemic in his state but declared this past weekend that the USTA was an “agricultural services organization,” deeming their work an essential service.
It was hoped that HRI could have provided a free link to the TrackMaster program-page past performances for Cal-Expo Tuesday and Wednesday. At the moment, the NoCal venue is the last harness track standing.
This weekend, Cal-Expo decided to change its schedule to Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon but the California Horse Racing Board, in its infinite wisdom, denied approval of the dates shift. Per usual, they will race Friday and Saturday nights. HRI will supply the link later this week.
Meanwhile, the bad news could not have been worse. In fact, harness horsemen on the East Coast has been devastated by the virus. Here’s the story, courtesy of NJ.com:
Horseman John Curtin thought he had the flu, he told Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media. “I was sweating like hell,” he began. A longtime trainer of standardbreds, Curtin retraced his steps.
He was at Yonkers Raceway on March 2, sitting in the office typically occupied by John Brennan, the first man from New Jersey to die of the coronavirus.
Curtin didn’t interact with Brennan on the trip to the New York racetrack but went out to dinner that night with two men who recently had had contact with Brennan.
“Once I heard John Brennan died, I figured I might have it,” Curtin continued. “I got tested in New Zealand and sure enough I was [diagnosed] positive 24 hours later. It had little effect on me, I was lucky.”
Brennan died March 10 and four members of a family with deep ties to the harness industry died within a six-day period this month.
First, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, of Freehold, died March 12, testing positive for coronavirus post-mortem. Three more family members passed, owing to the disease**.
The family was introduced to the virus via the paddock of the Westchester track where it’s virtually impossible to practice social distancing. Brennan, a long time owner and trainer, worked in the Yonkers racing office at the time of his death.
Health officials said the Fusco family deaths were connected to Brennan. It is suspected, reported Sargeant, that many of the Fusco relatives were infected at a family gathering.
There’s a concern among drivers and trainers that at least another half-dozen people in New Jersey’s harness industry have COVID-19 symptoms, interviews by Sargeant with more than a dozen harness people revealed.
“Certain drivers, they don’t know if they’re positive because they don’t test,” said Yannick Gingras, one of harness racing’s top drivers. “There are some who say they’re not feeling well and others who didn’t feel so good for a day or two and then they got back to feeling OK. But were they positive? We don’t know.”
“I got a group text a couple of days ago that said one of our employees tested positive for it,” said Ken Warkentin, track announcer at the Meadowlands and Freehold. “It was a paddock employee, a horseman, so everyone is on high alert.”
Florida Derby This Saturday
Thus far racing is on schedule in South Florida but there’s no word as to whether Saturday will be the last day of racing in Hallandale, in the fashion that Saturday’s Louisiana Derby program was the last day of racing in New Orleans, which is on course to become the next epicenter of horror.
Of course, it might not be Gulfstream’s call and, after all, they are conducting business in a state that only days ago shut down public beaches. The hope is that racing does continue.
If Aqueduct does reopen, the “New York” horses can return home, especially since there will be no stopover in Lexington this year.
**There was an error in the original story. No member of the Fusco family had been named in the FBI investigation into the use of PEDs and record falsification in horse racing. No harm was intended. HRI has corrected the record and apologizes to family and friends.