Should We Close the Curtains?



After a stellar day of racing with the Florida Derby card yesterday. It was hard to believe we are living in the times of a pandemic. – The sun was shining and you could see the ocean far off in the distance. Everything looked perfect as announcer Pete Aiello called the horses onto the track. – One of the first things that caught my eye was the pony people wearing masks as they lead horses onto the track. – Just as I felt everything was normal; this brought the reality back into focus.

Normally, Gulfstream is “home of killing four extra minutes to post.” – You know, circle them one more time and watch the handle skyrocket. But, this was not the case today. The earlier races ran on time like the Italian train system. But, I digress. – The races were a needed break away if only for a few hours. – The day did not disappoint, as we watched talking heads handicapping races from home.  Everything was in full effect and all precautions are taken. – Yeah, it was a good day.

Many tracks are changing. – Aqueduct Racetrack once called the “Mecca”. Because it was considered holy land with such great racehorses like Kelso, Secretariat, Forego, Ruffian, Pebbles gracing this holy ground. And October 6, 1995, Pope John Paul ll blessed this sacred racetrack with a crowd of more than 75,000. – The New York Racing Association announced Saturday that live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack is canceled for the remainder of the winter and spring meets with the building now set to serve as a temporary hospital site during the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. – On Friday, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York would seek the required federal approval to construct a temporary hospital at Aqueduct Racetrack to serve the borough of Queens with a 1,000-plus patient overflow facility. This action aligns with New York state’s goal to provide COVID-19 patient overflow facilities in each NYC borough as well as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties. – The “Mecca” is still watching over us. It has served in many capacities and now it is taking care of so many who need it more than ever. This is not the first time race tracks have played a role in helping the community. – In 2001, Belmont Park served as one of the staging areas for emergency vehicles and personnel in the days following 9/11. Less than seven weeks later, on October 27, 2001, Belmont Park was the site of the first major international sporting event post-9/11 in New York when it hosted the Breeders’ Cup.

Many have canceled and called it a race meet. – It makes good sense and it’s a wonder why it took so long to pull the plug. – I’d go to the races during a hurricane. But, there are circumstances that just outweigh the sport. I have to admit when Turfway Park called off its last three days. It hit hard financially on many. – No cancellations for the first time in memory and the winter climate was mild. I really thought we going to make it. – But, the Governor weighed in with common sense and safety practices for all. It was time to close the curtains for now. It will return bigger, brighter, and ready to race later in the year.

Thoroughbred racetracks in action Saturday include Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and northern California’s Golden Gate Fields, all operating behind doors closed to the public.

Given the ever-changing status of racing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in southern California hope to have Santa Anita Park back on the schedule soon. In an email distributed late Friday, the Thoroughbred Owners of California informed the membership that Santa Anita’s sudden halt to racing “remains a fluid situation.” It was upon an order from the LA County Department of Health that Santa Anita was mandated to cease racing operations minutes before the first post time Friday. – Hope spring’s eternal trying to keep life as normal as possible. But, for me, its safety first. We know the spread continues and the numbers continue to climb. Maybe this once, the only game in town should close the curtains and care for those who live to tend to the horses and others associated with the game.

After watching some great races and worrying about the people who come into contact during regular work routines. We should close the doors. – We are resilient and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. – Give it a little time and allow the medical community to do its part in keeping down the spread. – There will be better times. Believe it or not, racing and life will return to normal before you know it. – I’ll be seeing you at the races very soon!


The following tracks have either suspended or canceled their meets:

  • Aqueduct (remainder of the meet)
  • Birmingham (through April 6th)
  • Buffalo (resumes May 2nd)
  • Charles Town (indefinite)
  • Dubai World Cup (March 28th)
  • Evangeline (undetermined start to meet)
  • Fair Grounds (remainder of the meet)
  • Fairmount (at least March 30th)
  • Flamboro (until March 31st)
  • France – all meets (through April 15th)
  • Freehold (through March 21st)
  • Harrington (resumes April 1st)
  • IRE Flat Racing (through April 19th)
  • Keeneland (entire Spring Meet)
  • Laurel (undetermined)
  • Louisiana Downs (remainder of QH Meet)
  • Mahoning Valley (indefinite)
  • Meadowlands (undetermined)
  • MEX-Caliente (indefinite, beginning March 25th)
  • Monmouth (meet will now start May 23rd)
  • Monticello (through March 29th)
  • New Zealand (indefinite)
  • Northfield (through March 27th)
  • Northville (at least two weeks)
  • Parx (two weeks)
  • Penn National (undetermined)
  • Pocono (at least two weeks)
  • Pompano Park (undetermined)
  • Rillito (through March 22nd)
  • Rosecroft (undetermined)
  • Sam Houston (remainder of the meet)
  • Santa Anita (indefinite)
  • Saratoga H (indefinite starting March 23rd)
  • South Africa (March 27th-April 17th)
  • Sunland (three weeks)
  • The Meadows (undetermined)
  • Turf Paradise (remainder of Meet)
  • Turfway (remainder of the meet)
  • UK Flat Racing (through April 30th)
  • Woodbine-Mohawk (undetermined)
  • Yonkers (through March 18th)