The tug-of-war between Santa Anita Park and Los Angeles County Health Department officials continued Tuesday when county officials extended their “safer at home” order that was due to expire Friday. That extension slams into Santa Anita’s planned resumption of live racing, but track officials say they intend to proceed as scheduled.

Santa Anita Finish
Santa Anita Park officials want a return to finishes like this in the 2019 Monrovia Stakes. The track’s proposed Friday reopening is in limbo pending approval from the health department. (Image: Mark Ralston/AFP-Getty)

“We remain optimistic about running on Friday,” said Mike Willman, Santa Anita’s director of publicity in a statement.

Race officials solicited entries from horsemen via text message on Monday that they were accepting entries for a nine-race Friday card. Right on the heels of that, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a Board of Supervisors meeting that the safer-at-home order would, “with all certainty,” be extended another three months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The order, designed to halt the rampaging spread of COVID-19, blocks most public gatherings and shutdown meeting places throughout the county. The order covers Santa Anita, which shuttered on March 27 on orders from the county health department.

Things Not Going to Plan for Santa Anita

Since then, track officials have repeatedly pressed for the return of the live, spectator-free racing they conducted from March 12 to March 22. On April 16, Santa Anita officials sent a detailed plan to county officials outlining a safe way to resume racing amid the coronavirus.

The well-chronicled plan outlines the economic impact that not racing has on humans and horses alike. It also details steps Santa Anita has already taken, or that it plans to take, regarding spectator-free racing.

While this tug-of-war continues, the state has begun easing restrictions on places such as golf courses, parks, and beaches. The county announced that beaches will reopen Wednesday under their own safety protocols. Beachgoers must wear masks when not in the water, only swimmers, surfers, and joggers may hit the beach, and sunbathers are not allowed.

Track Remains in a Murky No-Man’s Land

That, however, leaves no mention of Santa Anita. It remains unclear what will happen if the track doesn’t receive the all-clear to resume racing. Aside from its first live racing in 56 days, Santa Anita’s first scheduled graded stakes upon its planned reopening is Sunday’s $100,000 Grade 3 Desert Stormer Stakes.

Meanwhile, 400 miles to the north, Santa Anita’s sister track – Golden Gate Fields – resumes Thursday. It got the all-clear from Alameda County health officials last week.

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