NYRA suspends racing after backstretch worker tests positive for virus

By: NYRA

Posted: March 19, 2020

The New York Racing Association March 19 said that live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack will be suspended until further notice due to changing circumstances in the racing community relative to the coronavirus (COVID-19)—a backstretch worker who lives and works at Belmont Park tested positive for the virus.

Following NYRA’s Preparedness and Response Plan, the worker has been quarantined since developing symptoms the morning of March 13. His roommate was also quarantined at that time.

NYRA’s Preparedness and Response Plan Committee has established clear protocols and processes following the most up-to-date health guidance established by the New York State Department of Health and the United States Centers for Disease Control.

“This individual and his roommate have been in isolation since prior to racing last Friday and as such did not travel to Aqueduct for live racing,” NYRA Chief Executive Officer and President Dave O’Rourke said. “We are working with the county and state departments of health to ensure proper quarantine and sterilization practices will continue to be followed moving forward.

“We are focused on ensuring the health and safety of our entire backstretch community, as well as the horses in their care. Accordingly, we are suspending racing operations until further notice to devote all our attention and resources to this effort.”

The Preparedness and Response Plan Committee, comprised of key NYRA staff members as well as representatives from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Backstretch Employee Service Team and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America have closely monitored and assessed developments regarding the coronavirus for the past several weeks to develop key protocols to monitor and manage both the Aqueduct and Belmont properties.

“At this point in the COVID-19 crisis, we all need to be 100% focused on the health of our staff and the welfare of our horses,” NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum said. “When the industry comes out the other side of this—and we will—having as many healthy horses and humans as possible will be paramount.”

NYRA has contracted with multiple outside cleaning vendors following best practices established by the New York State Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Racing at Aqueduct, which is conducted from Friday through Sunday in March, will be postponed until further notice. A decision regarding the resumption of live racing and the upcoming Aqueduct stakes schedule will be made at a later date.

The Belmont backstretch and its facilities remain open to horsemen and operational for training. Owners will not be permitted access to the backstretch until further notice. Stabling and training at Aqueduct was closed permanently as of Jan. 1, 2020.

(Aqueduct Racetrack photo courtesy of NYRA)