With an announcement that was roundly anticipated, the New York Racing Association, Inc. announced the opening of the Belmont Park spring-summer meet will be delayed due to the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlighted by the 152nd Belmont Stakes scheduled for June 6, the 51-day Belmont Park meet was originally scheduled to begin on April 24 and conclude on July 12. That no longer is the case, and no one knows when opening day will come.
“We are working closely with the New York State Gaming Commission and public health officials to determine a timeline for the resumption of live racing,” said NYRA CEO and President David O’Rourke.
“The health and safety of our community is paramount and any necessary adjustments to the schedule and operations must reflect that priority. I’d like to thank New York’s horsemen and backstretch community for their dedication and patience.”
With regard to the 2020 Belmont, NYRA is looking at options in consultation with all stakeholders, not the least of which is the Maryland Jockey Club, host of the Preakness Stakes.
Beginning on April 17, with specific approval from NYRA, trainers previously stabled at Belmont will be allowed to ship in horses who have been relocated during the crisis.
But to align with health department guidance and reduce the spread of the coronavirus, NYRA will not allow outside shippers to be accompanied by staff not already working at Belmont Park.
The Belmont backstretch is home to 585 workers who tend to the essential daily care of the more than 1,300 thoroughbreds currently stabled on the property.
HRI has learned 35 backstretch workers have contracted coronavirus, one worker dying from complications associated with Covid-19. A request was made to the NYRA press office at 1:51 pm but we have yet to receive a confirmation or denial. [An update will be posted upon receipt].
Belmont Park has remained open to horsemen and operational personnel for training. Owners do not have access to the backstretch area, a mandate that will remain in effect until further notice.
The last live race run in New York was on March 15 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Originally scheduled to race through March 29, NYRA suspended racing there on March 19.
NYRA has followed all recommended guidelines. To encourage social distancing, common areas such as the recreation center, Morning Line café, track kitchen and the clockers’ stand have been closed. The track kitchen provides grab-and-go food options.
RACING IN KY CANNOT BECOME A POLITICAL FOOTBALL
Kentucky State Senate majority leader Damon Thayer (R) spoke out against Governor Andy’s Beshear’s (D) stance on the resumption of horse racing according to a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal early this week.
Political differences between the parties notwithstanding, Thayer also was speaking from his heart. I knew Thayer when he was an intern before he landed a paying position at Breeders’ Cup Ltd. However, I cannot condone this recent verbal assault on the Commonwealth’s Governor:
“The Governor ought to back off a little bit and let our signature industry get back to business” was his quote to the Courier Journal. “I think tracks can work with the racing commission to get this done and get it done right.”
I agree with that assessment. With the right protocols Thoroughbred racing can work. It’s working nicely at two tracks in Florida and one in Arkansas.
But the “back off and get back to business” philosophy doesn’t work for the rest of the population. We have seen social media support growing among the King’s subjects who want business back up and running ASAP. These are clearly men and women who value money more than human life.
If we are to trust scientists–the only ones who speak with certitude based on fact-based data–the country is not ready to open up. Reintroducing the population without sufficient testing—appropriately only 1% now, and without contact tracing, is a death sentence waiting to happen.
Governors can be convinced that with the proper safety protocols, racing can and does work, so allow the Governor to do his job for all the people in the Commonwealth. Not everyone derives a living from horse racing.
Life is sacred, “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are luxuries no one can afford at this point in time.
I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE
The ground, on balance, may be heavier in France than it is in Great Britain but the French appear to be a little lighter on their feet when it comes to the resumption in racing in these two major Thoroughbred jurisdictions.
The British Horse Racing Authority recently announced has it will delay a resumption of racing for an indefinite period while the French racing authorities will meet next week to consider a time for opening their season.
The assumption is that all accepted safety protocols will be in place and that when racing returns, it likely would do so without spectators. What this means for tracks that offer pari-mutuel wagering, bookmaking or both, is anyone’s guess. Normal no longer is definable in a traditional sense.
We’re all this this together which means everyone except the scientists are guessing and even with the benefit of data they still are making projections, a fancy of saying they’re guessing too, only at a higher level. At least they have data and need not rely only on the metrics of imaginings.
BEYOND ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS, PROPS TO CHARLES FIPKE
In light of economic hardship wrought by the pandemic, all stallions owned by prominent owner/breeder Charles Fipke will stand the 2020 breeding season at no charge.
The stud fee will be waived for breeders with already signed contracts and zero-fee contracts will be issued for any new seasons for the remainder of the current breeding season.
Fipke owns seven stallions standing across North America: three at Darby Dan Farm, two at Colebrook’s Stallion Station, and one each at Hidden Springs Fam and Daehling Ranch.
“Small breeders will be especially affected and they are the backbone of this industry,” Fipke said via press release. “I’m passionate about the game, will continue to support my stallions and I’d like to show my appreciation for outside breeders who do so in these trying times.” Good on you, sir.