Luis Saez, one of the nation’s top riders, tested positive for COVID-19 while riding at Keeneland‘s five-day summer meet. He was taken off his mounts after the second race July 10 and asked to vacate the premises.
Saez had just finished second aboard the Graham Motion-trained Fortuna in a $70,000 maiden special weight race for fillies and mares 3 and up when it was discovered that he had tested positive.
Keeneland has stringent protocols in place for the meet after its traditional run in April was canceled because of the pandemic. Riders coming in need to show they have had a clean test within the past five days or be tested. Saez was tested July 9, and the results were made available Friday.
Of concern was the fact that Saez rode Wednesday at Indiana Grand during the meet’s biggest day featuring the Indiana Derby (G3) and Indiana Oaks (G3). Saez competed in New York at Belmont Park July 5 after riding in California at Los Alamitos Race Course July 4, when he won the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) aboard Uncle Chuck.
“Everybody that rode in Indiana on Wednesday we had tested yesterday before they rode,” said Vince Gabbert, Keeneland’s vice president and chief operating officer. “As soon as we got the results back (today) and found out about the positive, he removed all of his tack and we cleaned and sanitized the area he had occupied.
“Fortunately, we had set up four different jocks’ rooms and have everybody spaced out on where they have been, or coming from. We had the Indiana guys set up in a different area, and everybody has been socially distancing and doing all of the protocols we have set up.
“We made sure that everybody was informed and did our contact tracing to make sure that anybody who had been in contact with him knew about it. We have testing available on the grounds for those who want it through the weekend. They have been made aware that they can get tested.”
The concern for Keeneland, and for other racing participants across the country, is the movement of horses and horsemen.
“We have some guys coming on from New York for the weekend, and they will be in one spot; guys coming in from California, they’ll be in a separate spot,” Gabbert said. “We are making sure we are keeping people apart as much as we can, and we are following our protocols. And so far they are working the way we hoped they would should a situation come up.
“Everybody who has come in has provided a negative test within the last five days or has been tested before they came on the grounds. And so we feel confident between the social distancing and the testing and the requirement of masks that we have the proper protection for (riders) and for all of the folks around them.”
On Wednesday at Indiana Grand, Saez won the first race with the Michael Lauer-trained Copper Nickel and the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes with the Rodolphe Brisset-trained The Black Album while riding in eight of the 12 races.
Garcia, Espinoza Also Test Positive
Another jockey who has ridden actively in Kentucky this spring and summer, Martin Garcia, was removed from his mounts Wednesday at Indiana Grand after he tested positive in Kentucky for COVID-19, Daily Racing Form reported.
Like Saez, Garcia rode at Los Alamitos July 4, as did Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, who was removed from his mounts Friday at Del Mar pending the results of a COVID-19 test, agent Brian Beach said. The test, which came back Friday evening, showed Espinoza as positive for COVID-19.
Garcia also rode July 5 at Prairie Meadows. Espinoza has not ridden since July 4.