Racing Against Corona

While the Coronavirus has transformed the sporting landscape, leaving fans with almost nothing to watch or wager on, horse racing has remained an option, particularly for gamblers isolated at home.  The Sport Of Kings continues at many tracks, albeit without spectators in the grandstands. 

But don’t be mislead, COVID-19 has broken from the gate and caused many changes and cancellations in the Thoroughbred Racing World.


Coronavirus Closings

The New York Racing Association last Thursday suspended racing at Aqueduct until further notice after a backstretch worker at Belmont Park tested positive for COVID-19.  That worker and his roommate were quarantined.  Decisions on  future races such as the April 4th Wood Memorial (G2) are pending.

Government mandates put racing to a halt elsewhere, namely in Maryland, where Laurel Park is shut down on orders from the governor.  Sunland Park in New Mexico also halted races, including its signature Sunland Derby (G3), on recommendation by its governor.

A number of tracks that are no longer racing have purse structures tightly connected to on-site casino revenue.  When the casinos closed, so did the tracks. That includes, among others, Parx Racing and Penn National.

Broader Implications

Of course, the Kentucky Derby and its postponement to September 5th, when Churchill Downs hopes to run the race in front of spectators, tops this list. Churchill’s entire Derby week schedule, including the Kentucky Oaks on September 4th, will shift to the first week in September.

Keeneland canceled its Spring Meet, a rite of passage in Kentucky.  Since making that call, the track has said it may seek some non-traditional race dates in exchange. Details are vague at this point.

The Dubai World Cup night card scheduled for this Saturday — its 25th running — has been axed as well.  American horses pointing to the $12 million World Cup were SIR WINSTON, TACITUS, MUCHO GUSTO, MATH WIZARD and WAR STORY along with other state-bred runners on the under-card.  The U.S. horses had already shipped to the Middle East when the decision was made.

Oaklawn Park filled a void on the first Saturday in May by moving the Arkansas Derby (G1) to that date from its April 11th running.  With that being the last points prep on the current schedule, Churchill Downs is putting together an extended road to the Derby, running through the summer and using existing Stakes Races for 3-year-olds.

As of this writing, the Florida Derby will still happen at Gulfstream Park in Florida this Saturday.  On Wednesday the Daily Racing Blog will begin to preview this Kentucky Derby Prep Race.

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