US RACING: Racing returns to New York on June 1

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday during his daily coronavirus briefing that horse racing can resume there on June 1.

As part of the state’s phased reopening, the New York Racing Association’s Belmont Park and Saratoga were both listed among racetracks that can run sans spectators, similar to other circuits around the country.

“There’ll be guidelines for the actual participants — no crowd, no fans,” Cuomo said. “For the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work.” It’s welcome news for New York horsemen with racing shut down since the first coronavirus positive was recorded on the Belmont Park backstretch in March. Barns in need of races and their purse money will get much-needed relief.

On the national scale, this should set in motion completion of the 3-year-old stakes schedule leading to the September 5 Kentucky Derby. Races such as the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes (G1) have yet to solidify their spots on the calendar.

At last update this week, NYRA had secured COVID-19 antibody tests for its employees and backstretch workers, with CEO and President Dave O’Rourke saying, “This broad testing program will provide additional insight allowing us to more fully understand how COVID-19 has impacted our community.”

According to NYRA, 600 of 800 backstretch workers live on site. Training has not been interrupted throughout the pandemic.

In a statement Saturday, O’Rourke called Cuomo’s decision “reasoned and responsible,” adding that race dates and a corresponding stakes schedule will follow “in the very near future.”

“The governor has reiterated during these challenging times that sports provide much-needed entertainment for New Yorkers,” O’Rourke said. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo and his team, fans across New York and around the country can look forward to the return of horse racing from beautiful Belmont Park.”

With racing approved, NYRA’s plans call for only those required to be present under the rules of New York racing to be allowed on track in the afternoons.