By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Racing in New York has been given the go-ahead to resume behind closed doors on June 1 by state governor Andrew Cuomo.
With racing resuming this weekend in both California and Kentucky, the news means that all three of North America’s most significant circuits will be back in operation at the start of next month following the coronavirus shutdown.
There has been no thoroughbred racing in New York, a staple of Sky Sports Racing nightly US coverage in Britain, since Aqueduct on Sunday March 15. Racing was suspended on March 19.
A date has yet to be announced for the beginning of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet featuring the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown. The Belmont main dirt track was reopened for training on May 12.
NYRA issued a statement welcoming Cuomo’s decision. “We applaud his decision to authorise the resumption of horse racing, without fans, beginning on June 1”, said NYRA CEO and president Dave O’Rourke.
“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.
“With this safety plan in place, NYRA will announce race dates and a corresponding stakes schedule for the 2020 spring/summer meet at Belmont Park in the very near future.”
New York state has been hit hard by coronavirus, with 345,813 confirmed cases and 22,304 deaths reported until Thursday.
According to the Daily Racing Form, Nassau County, where Belmont Park is located, has had 38,864 cases and 2,027 deaths. “If Nassau County were a state, it would rank 10th in cases and deaths,” said the Form.
Cuomo, who revealed the news during his daily live coronavirus briefing on Saturday, said he would issue further guidance on health and safety protocols.
“We are more nuanced in our analysis, looking for economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings,” the governor said in his address.
“Remember the problem here are crowds and gatherings. So what can you do? Or what economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd? They’re talking about this in terms of sports. You can have baseball without a crowd, but it can still be televised. Great. You can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great.
“We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks, and we’re going to do that. There will be guidelines for the actual participants, but no crowds, no fans. But for the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work.”