Updated COVID-19 Fallout: Aqueduct, Laurel Suspends Racing; Gulfstream Friday Card Called Off; California Has ‘Stay At Home’ Mandate; Jockeys Taking Time Off; Trainers, TVG Personnel Go Into ‘Self Quarantine’

by | 03.19.2020 | 10:03pm

Like many other days since COVID-19, or coronavirus, was deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, a series of events rocked the horse racing world from coast to coast on Thursday.

Among them:

– The New York Racing Association suspended racing at Aqueduct, effective immediately, after a backstretch worker based at Belmont Park tested positive for the virus. He began showing symptoms Friday, March 13, and was placed in a quarantine established by NYRA's Preparedness and Response Plan Committee (a collaboration of several organizations, With test kits in short supply, results from the worker's test was not confirmed positive for COVID-19 until Thursday morning.

– Jockeys Irad Ortiz Jr. and Rajiv Maragh Tweeted after Thursday's racing program at Gulfstream Park that they would be taking time off from riding because of the pandemic, each citing a commitment to their family. Other jockeys reportedly participated in a conference call Thursday evening to discuss whether or not they will continue to ride, even though precautions and protocols have been put in place at Gulfstream Park and other tracks that are continuing to conduct live racing in the absence of the general public.

Late Thursday night, Gulfstream Park issued a press release saying it was calling off Friday's card in order to make some updates to the jockeys room and incorporate additional protocols, including daily temperature scans of all riders and jockeys room personnel. Racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday at Gulfstream.

– Trainers Tom Amoss and Jeremiah Englehart are both in “self-quarantine” after being in close proximity to New Orleans Saints head football coach Sean Payton at Oaklawn Park on March 14, Rebel Stakes Day. Payton announced on Thursday afternoon that he tested positive for COVID-19. Payton said he began feeling ill the day after he attended the races to support his former boss, NFL legend Bill Parcells, whose Three Technique – trained by Englehart – finished fourth in the Rebel. Payton was tested on March 16 and was notified three days later that he had contracted the virus. Englehart told Randy Moss of NBC Sports that he had lunch with Payton.  Payton presented the winner's trophy for the Azeri Stakes, won by Serengeti Empress, a 4-year-old filly trained by Amoss. Neither Enblehart nor Amoss said they are experiencing any symptoms or illness.

– TVG's executive producer Kevin Grigsby issued a statement on Twitter that any known employee of the horse racing network who came into contact with Payton at Oaklawn Park would also self-quarantine for the recommended time by the Centers for Disease Control. Payton was interviewed by TVG's Britney Eurton, discussing, among other things, the effect the coronavirus outbreak might have on the NFL's upcoming season. Eurton posted a video saying she is “feeling good and I have no symptoms” – which can include headache and body ache, fever, dry cough and severe respiratory problems in some people.

As of Thursday night, Oaklawn Park had not issued any statements concerning Payton's appearance and subsequent positive test.

– Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien announced on Thursday he would not be represented in the Dubai World Cup meet in the United Arab Emirates, citing concerns over travel. O'Brien had several horses targeted for the March 28 races. Several American jockeys said previously they were skipping the Dubai races because of the pandemic and the requirement to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon their return to the United States.

– Woodbine Mohawk Raceway in Ontario said it would be suspending live racing until further notice after Thursday night's card due to the spread of COVID-19.

– On Wednesday, harness trainer Carmine Fusco died in Freehold, N.J., after contracting COVID-19. Fusco's sister, Rita Fusco-Jackson, and mother, Grace Fusco, also died from the virus, and several other family members are hospitalized or in quarantine.

– Thursday night, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a mandatory “stay at home” order, the only apparent exemptions being people who work in critical sectors. The order states in part: “The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuing of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.” Earlier this week, a similar “shelter in place” order was issued by six Northern California counties, including Alameda County where Golden Gate Fields is located. Despite that order, Golden Gate was allowed to continue racing. It isn't immediately clear if racing at Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and Golden Gate will be similarly exempted from the governor's order.

Santa Anita issued the following statement following Gov. Newsom's order: “We have been closed to the public since March 12. We are working with the governor's office to get some clarity after tonight's order.  We do not expect to hear before tomorrow.”

– On Friday, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association issued a text alert to horsemen stating that live racing at Laurel Park was being suspended until further notice on orders from Gov. Larry Hogan, who on Friday tightened restrictions on a “Maryland Unites” initiative that bans gathers of more than 10 people.

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram