New York Tracks Approved to Open by June 1

New York Racing Association has been working to get meet underway at Belmont Park.

Thoroughbred racing in New York took one step closer May 16 toward resuming—and it was a big one.

During his live address to the state Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced racetracks will be permitted to resume racing without fans effective June 1. His office will be issuing guidance in the coming week as to how tracks can operate safely as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

“We are more nuanced in our analysis, looking for economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings,” Cuomo said. “Remember the problem here are crowds and gatherings. So what can you do? Or what economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd? They’re talking about this in terms of sports. You can have baseball without a crowd, but it can still be televised. Great. You can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great.

“We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks, and we’re going to do that. There will be guidelines for the actual participants, but no crowds, no fans. But for the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work.”

The New York Racing Association has been working to get the spring/summer meeting underway at Belmont Park but has not yet released an opening date. A NYRA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment for this article.

Racing in New York was suspended March 19 as New York City became an epicenter for the pandemic, and the Belmont meet, originally scheduled to open April 24, was indefinitely suspended due to public health concerns.

Aqueduct Racetrack last conducted racing March 15.

The Belmont backstretch, where horses are stabled on the NYRA circuit, has remained operational for the 800 men and women, of which nearly 600 live on the backstretch, who tend to the essential daily care of the more than 1,500 Thoroughbreds currently stabled on the property. 

One backstretch worker at Belmont, Martin Zapata, died April 7 from the virus. Five others were hospitalized since the outbreak began to ravage New York City and Nassau County in early March, but all have been released. A May 13 New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association newsletter reported 18 workers in quarantine and 47 who have been released from quarantine.

Also on hold has been the Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack season in Farmington, N.Y., which was set to open for a 127-day race meet April 25. 

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