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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


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.


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.


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.


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.

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10 Responses

  1. I couldn’t disagree more with your take and I totally agree with the senate majority leader in Ky. Opening up the country does work for most Americans. This is blatant overstep by our government and hopefully residents of other states will follow the residents of Michigan’s lead. To say we value money over life is preposterous. The ones saying shut down for the foreseeable future likely aren’t feeling the pinch. I am lucky enough to be getting full pay while not working and I’m still for opening up now. Apparently you are unaware of the damage being done by this shut down. The cure will be worse than the disease. We are saving the village by burning it down, not a great strategy. Many people are dying with this virus and not from it.

  2. TTT

    Like my father said, there is no substitute for stupidity, and the masses are not inflicted with Covid-19, but with a bad case of stupidity and naivete. Speaking of immunity, what, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Fonner and Will Rogers are immune to this life-ending viral threat? Back to horse racing and Gulfstream and Oaklawn. Let’s see, there are only two (2) major tracks that are running, to wit: Gulfstream and Oaklawn, yet they are unable to put 30 minutes between post times, caring nothing about the betting public. And in a case of reverse gouging, have you noticed a precipitous drop in purse money at both tracks, once again, having no respect for the betting public, the owners and trainers. Certain persons on this leftist website can continue to blame Donald Trump for all their woes, which again, only shows their stupidity and naivete in spades. Take off those silly masks you fools, and while you’re at it, take off the blinders you’ve been wearing.

    1. what fo you think of josepgh g cairo’s running of nassau otb?
      he is the republican chair of nassau county, having inherited the podition from the ambassador to trinidad and Tobago Joseph mondello. he has the title of lresident but has many other jobs and leaves things to his secretary srthur walsh esq.

  3. Not making an excuse for either but economics demand it–and regulars know my feelings about greed has ruined what was once the American Dream.

    Anyway, neither track has their casino operation to help prop up purses, and their shares of simulcast wagering is miniscule compared to on-track handle of which there is none with no fans in attendance — and the tracks have to share that little revenue with their states. The money simply is no longer there.

    But not coordinating post times when only three significant tracks are running? There can’t be a concerted effort now?

  4. My pop told me many years ago that it is better to be thought of as stupid than to speak and leave no doubt.

  5. As at 01:09 today: Coronavirus cases 701,336 in United States, deaths 37,312! Yup, ‘take off those silly masks you fools …’
    Damn, in five minutes it is now 701,438 cases.

  6. JP,
    Thanks for sharing the statistics from Belmont.

    However ‘Life is sacred, “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are luxuries no one can afford at this point in time.’ may be sending the wrong message as one’s L,L,&PoH is not supposed to be acquired at the expense of another citizen.

    As one Federal medical expert pointed out “it’s not just a matter of protecting ourselves, but of protecting each other.” The spirit of 1776 is NOT represented in this media-hyped refusal to recognize reality. Among the virus’s casualties are the courageous first-responders whose efforts must not be wasted, exhausted, or undermined. What if there was revolution among their ranks if everyone wasn’t willing to do his/her part?

    I think we’re on the same page for a change.

  7. Mr. Ed: I wish that this ‘page’ didn’t exist and that I could be disagreeing with you on some matter involving Thoroughbred racing; and, I am pleased that I still have the ability to think an reason and to discern the obvious.

    Your mellifluous commentary is always read by me here at HRI even though much of it tends to raise my blood pressure.

  8. Mellifluous? I had to look it up. Thanks, wmc.

    Are you now a shut-in sharpie or does your OTB do six-foot spacing?

  9. Shut in, pissed off, and trying to keep my ADW account in the black. The local OTB is shuttered. Thank goodness that I can still purchase Foster’s – call order in via credit card and the goodies are put in car trunk.

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