Derby Jockey Conundrum

Any jockey expecting to ride in the Kentucky Derby on September 5th or Kentucky Oaks on September 4th must arrive in Kentucky by August 24th according to proposed regulations issued by Churchill Downs.

Track president Kevin Flanery said during a conference call with horsemen Monday afternoon that the rule, and its implementation is still under consideration.

All riders, not just those shipping in from out of state, must pass two separate coronavirus tests, one by 6 p.m. on Monday, August 24th, and a second by noon on Monday, August 31st.

Jockeys testing positive will be required to quarantine for 10 days, the report states.  In addition, all individuals with access to the jockeys’ room will be required to test by August 31st.

Jockeys will miss two weeks of racing leading up to the Kentucky Derby weekend, and could also miss two weeks afterward depending on quarantine requirements in their home state- any jockeys riding out of Saratoga would be subject to the additional two weeks.

Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith are among those arguing against the early arrival:

“What they’re asking us to do seems very difficult to do,” said Smith.  “You’re going to have to be there 10 days out.  I’d rather be somewhere where I feel safer and just fly in, test and ride.  I’m not saying I won’t be riding at Churchill. It’s just that this is going to be really difficult.”

“I hope they are still working on this and just threw this out there,” Baffert said.  “To me, they’re playing with fire bringing them in there 10 days before.  That gives them a chance to get sick.  Let them come in like Monmouth Park did for the Haskell.  They went to a place there and got tested and within 15 minutes they got their results.  It seems to me that they should let them come in, test them, let them ride and then let them get out of there.  That is as long as they come in there with a negative test.”

The Daily Racing Blog is ambivalent to the ten day quarantine idea.  We certainly want everyone involved to be safe.  But what about the trainers?  Do they need to arrive ten days ahead of Derby weekend to be allowed into the track?  Do all the horses human connections need to follow the same protocol?

It seems a bit duplicitous of Mr. Flanery.  Back in June he agreed to open the track on Derby weekend for a finite number of fans, with covid rules and regulations in place.  Great, but these fans will be coming to Churchill Downs from all parts of the country.

The one, limited spectators rule I don’t recall seeing was that these race fans have to arrive ten days ahead of time and be tested.  Then again, the fans are profit, the jockeys overhead.  Right Mr. Flanery?

We suspect the jockey quarantine proposal will be tweaked in the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned.

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