From a betting standpoint, the coronavirus outbreak that has canceled or suspended events across the sporting spectrum means America’s horse racing tracks are some of the few venues with action available to punters. Provided you have a remote betting account or betting app.
Due to the threat of coronavirus and COVID-19, tracks from California to Florida to New York and all points in between are racing, but are closed to the public. Bettors are still able to place wagers remotely via accepted apps and at casino race and sportsbooks in states where it’s legal, but the tracks themselves are not open for simulcast betting on races at other tracks. Most have also suspended their usual facility tours.
The marquee race on Saturday’s calendar is the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes from Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Offering 50-20-15-5 qualifying points to the top-four finishers, this is the only major Kentucky Derby prep this weekend. That race will be televised on FS2 and MSG Network.
Morning Workouts Scrubbed
In California, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields, both owned by The Stronach Group, have canceled morning workouts. The decision to eliminate the fan ritual followed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recommendation for all businesses and organizations in the state to cancel gatherings of more than 250 people.
According to a statement released by Aidan Butler, acting executive director for California operations for The Stronach Group:
“We heard Gov. Newsom’s call and we are responding accordingly for the protection of our customers and employees. Much like other sports which have chosen to play without spectators, We will race with the personnel necessary to ensure the safety of the horses and the integrity of the sport.”
Charlatan Back on Track
At Santa Anita, this means fans won’t be present to see Bob Baffert’s prize 3-year-old Charlatan run his second race. The horse, who opened eyes with a 5 ¾-length victory in his first race Feb. 16, is stretching out to a mile in a Saturday allowance race for 3-year-olds.
Charlatan has drawn comparisons to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, also a Baffert trainee who broke his maiden in his first race as a 3-year-old.
Meanwhile, at Gulfstream Park in Florida, officials announced the March 28 Florida Derby will proceed as scheduled, but will be closed to the public. The track’s casino remains open for slot machine play only. Tampa Bay Downs took the same measures. It will suspend simulcast wagering on out-of-town tracks after Sunday’s racing.
With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban gatherings of 500 or more people, the New York Racing Association closed Aqueduct’s doors to the public. A statement from NYRA read:
“Until further notice, only essential racetrack staff required to officiate and report on live racing per New York State Gaming Commission rules, including, but not limited to: stewards, licensed owners, trainers, assistant trainers and grooms, will be permitted on-site.”
Abundance of Caution
At Kentucky’s Keeneland, the April 2 opening day to its spring meet will not have fans. In addition, the track has canceled its 2020 April 2-Year-Olds in Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale, scheduled for April 7.
“While our horsemen and fans are certainly disappointed in us having to take these measures, it is critical to protect the health and safety of our patrons, employees, and participants from the spread of COVID-19,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said in a statement.
The three tracks in Maryland — Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, and Rosecroft Raceway — followed suit. Racing at Laurel and Rosecroft will continue without fans.
Not surprisingly, international tracks are taking similar precautions. The Dubai Racing Club announced it will hold the March 28 Dubai World Cup without spectators at Meydan Racecourse. It has canceled all supporting social activities, including the post-position draw party and all entertainment events attached to the race.