Maryland Jockey Club officials announced Friday that jockeys riding Preakness weekend at Pimlico Race Course must undergo COVID-19 testing 72 hours prior to their first mount.

Pimlico-Preakness Protocols
Jockeys hoping to experience the rush of a Preakness stretch run must undergo COVID-19 testing in Maryland no later than 72 hours before their first race on Preakness weekend. (Image: Pimlico Race Course)

That’s one of numerous safety protocols MJC officials instituted for Preakness weekend, which begins Thursday, Oct. 1, and culminates with the 145th Preakness Stakes on Saturday, Oct. 3. In this pandemic year, the Preakness became the third and final Triple Crown race of 2020 – run 4 ½ months after its customary mid-May date.

While riders may travel to Maryland from other tracks across the country, MJC is working to ensure Pimlico won’t be a coronavirus breeding ground. Primary among the mandates put in place is that riders arrive at Pimlico’s drive-up COVID-19 testing site no later than 72 hours before their first race of the weekend.

Out-of-state jockeys – who constitute most of the Preakness rider contingent – must self-quarantine after their tests until they are notified of the results. Riders receiving a negative result can return to Pimlico, where they’ll be issued wristbands allowing them on the grounds and into their designated barn area.

Riders receiving positive tests may not enter Pimlico. They may be referred to a local clinic for further evaluation.

Keep Those Gloves Handy, Preakness Jockeys

During Preakness weekend, jockeys are required to wear gloves during races, with mandatory glove changes after every race. Face coverings are required while in the jockeys’ room, and MJC officials plan on enforcing a strict no-loitering rule in the jockeys’ room between or after races.

The jockeys’ room is off-limits to everyone but riders, their valets, and designated jockeys’ room officials and staff. Jockeys are allowed into Pimlico only on days they have scheduled mounts. They will have their temperature taken before entry.

In a nod to social distancing, the MJC established separate jockeys’ quarters. Those are segregated both by gender and by geography. Pimlico’s second-floor clubhouse provides two jockeys’ domains: one for local riders and one for out-of-state riders.

No Fans Smelling the Black-Eyed Susans This Year

The Preakness, its undercard, and ancillary weekend races will run without fans and with essential racing personnel only. Those personnel must undergo the same testing procedures as riders, except they must be tested by Monday, Sept. 28. This includes racing officials, starting gate crews, valets, outriders, and other necessary officials, such as stewards.

While strict, the MJC’s protocols are less stringent than those instituted by Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. There, Churchill Downs officials mandated riders be in Kentucky six days before the Derby. That was originally 12 days, but after an outcry from trainers, jockeys, and their agents, Churchill Downs relented and cut the reporting deadline in half.

Preakness weekend closes Pimlico’s shortened Preakness meet. The 1 3/16-mile Preakness headlines a 16-stakes weekend slate that offers nine graded stakes and $3.35 million in purses. Kentucky Derby winner Authentic and Blue Grass Stakes champion Art Collector are your two favorites.