Posted: Sept. 7, 2020
The New York Racing Association Sept. 6 announced COVID-19 health and safety protocols for jockeys during the 27-day Belmont Park fall meet, which begins Sept. 18 and concludes Nov. 1.
In order to mitigate risk and reduce the spread of COVID-19, Belmont will be closed to out-of-town jockeys until further notice. However, members of the regular NYRA jockey colony who travel to ride at any other racetrack during the Belmont fall meet will be required to provide two negative COVID-19 tests taken within a five-day window in order to return to ride at Belmont. Jockeys traveling out of state who have completed the required testing will then be physically isolated in the jockeys’ quarters for three additional calendar days.
For example, if a NYRA jockey travels out of New York to compete on a Saturday, that jockey should be tested upon return to New York on Sunday and tested again on Thursday. Should both tests be returned negative, the jockey will be allowed to ride races at Belmont beginning Friday and will be provided an isolated area on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
NYRA jockeys who have traveled outside of New York state to compete at other racetracks beginning the week of Aug. 31 will also be required to provide two negative COVID-19 tests taken within the five-day window preceding that jockey’s first mount at Belmont.
Jockeys who have remained in New York and not competed at other tracks following the conclusion of the Saratoga Race Course meet Sept. 7 will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the seven-day window preceding that jockey’s first mount at Belmont. All testing must be performed in New York state.
The first condition book for the fall meet currently lists 17 active jockeys and two apprentice riders who will be designated members of the NYRA jockey colony. Jockeys and agents interested in being included in the NYRA jockey colony may contact NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Martin Panza for consideration by Sept. 18.
In addition to race-day safety protocols which include standard health screening and temperature checks, the jockey quarters at Belmont have been substantially altered to provide maximum social distancing and reduce density. All areas accessed by jockeys during the regular course of a race day are closed to outside personnel, including credentialed media, and are cleaned and disinfected throughout the day.
Jockeys are not permitted access to the barn area. In order to work a horse in the morning, the jockey must meet the horse in the paddock and may then proceed to the main track.
Jockey agents must produce a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain access to the barn area. Races will continue to be drawn via Zoom. All valets must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken anytime after Sept. 13 in order to access the jockeys’ quarters on opening day. Valets working in in the jockeys’ quarters are not permitted in the barn area.
Following opening weekend at Belmont, live racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, when live racing will be offered on Monday, Oct. 12, and will resume on Friday, Oct. 16.
(Belmont Park photo courtesy of NYRA)