New York tracks get OK to resume racing June 1

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 16, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo May 16 announced that the state’s racetracks can reopen—without on-track patrons—effective June 1 and must follow guidelines and protocol from the state.

The New York Racing Association, which plans to begin live racing at Belmont Park later that week, already has strict coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation protocols in place for daily training operations. The last live racing program at a NYRA track was held March 15 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“We have a smart phased reopening plan that has been reviewed by experts, and half of the state is in the process of reopening,” Cuomo said. “Now we’re getting a little more nuanced in our analysis and starting to look for economic activities that we can start without crowds and gatherings—in this state we can do that with horseracing tracks and car racing at Watkins Glen, and we’re going to do that starting June 1.”

“NYTHA and all of our horsemen are gratified to hear Gov. Cuomo announce a return to racing, albeit sans spectators, at his daily press conference,” New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Joe Appelbaum said. “We want to thank the governor for his stalwart leadership during incredibly challenging times for all New Yorkers. We have been working side by side with NYRA, the Backstretch Employee Service Team, the chaplaincy as well as our staunchly committed horsemen and women preparing for a return to racing.

“We are confident that the protocols implemented over the last 60 days at Belmont will allow staff both on the frontside and the backstretch to work safely. We eagerly anticipate statewide safety guidance from the New York State Gaming Commission so that we are fully prepared to start racing on June 1. Conducting live racing will be an enormous relief for our owners and trainers, and we thank them for their patience and determination in weathering this unprecedented storm.

“New York racing will not only survive this, but be stronger for the bonds that have been forged with our industry partners.”

Along with Belmont, other tracks that would be racing at this time of year include Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack and six Standardbred tracks. Meets were either suspended in March or missed their scheduled opening dates.

“NYRA and the New York racing community are thankful for Gov. Cuomo’s steady leadership throughout this public health crisis and we applaud his decision to authorize the resumption of horse racing, without fans, beginning on June 1,” NYRA President and Chief Executive Officer Dave O’Rourke said in a release. “This is a reasoned and responsible decision by Gov. Cuomo that will enable horse racing to resume in a way that prioritizes health and safety while recognizing that NYRA is the cornerstone of an industry responsible for 19,000 jobs and $3 billion in annual economic impact.

“We look forward to the resumption of live racing at Belmont Park with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place to support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of thoroughbred racing in New York. NYRA has developed a comprehensive safety plan that builds on our experience of operating training safely and responsibly during the pandemic, and includes extensive protocols to keep our community safe.”

NYRA said it will soon announce racing dates and a stakes schedule for the 2020 spring/summer meet at Belmont. Given the fact Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, which generates substantial purse funds for NYRA, has been closed for more than two months with no opening date announced, purses are expected to be reduced.