US RACING: Race meets continue in US without spectators

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With no March Madness, NBA or NHL action due to the coronavirus pandemic, horse racing looks like the only game in town — and maybe the entire United States — this weekend.

Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2) and Turfway Park’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) are prominent on the Kentucky Derby trail, and Santa Anita Park also hosts its Beholder Mile (G1) for older fillies and mares.

But it’s not quite business as usual. To guard against the spread of coronavirus, most of the nation’s top tracks are running cards without spectators, while wagering continues online.

As of Friday, here’s where things stand around the nation with, so far, only Parx suspending racing among Thoroughbred tracks:

 Aqueduct  No spectators
 Fair Grounds  No spectators
 Golden Gate Fields  No spectators
 Gulfstream Park  No spectators
 Laurel Park  No spectators
 Oaklawn Park  No spectators
 Parx Racing  Racing suspended at least two weeks
 Sam Houston  No spectators
 Santa Anita Park  No spectators
 Sunland Park  Open to spectators Friday; future TBD
 Tampa Bay Downs  No spectators after Sunday
 Turfway Park  No spectators

A number of tracks, namely those in New York and California, closed to all but essential on-site

personnel in accordance with policies in place to limit crowd sizes in those states.

Initially, Oaklawn had intended to proceed with fans allowed through the weekend, with its Saturday program also including the Azeri Stakes (G2) and Essex Handicap. Thursday evening, the track changed course and will go on without spectators.

“We will act in a similar fashion to other sports organizations throughout the country,” track president Louis Cella said. “The health and safety of our fans, horsemen, and team members have always been and will continue to be our top priorities.”

Fair Grounds’ move to continue allowing spectators was also short-lived. On Friday, Louisiana’s governor announced a proclamation halting gatherings of 250 people or more until April 13.

Readers are reminded that in addition to wagering, TVG offers account holders access to a free live stream of its station and to tracks’ simulcast feeds.