US RACING: Santa Anita gets the go ahead for racing

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Santa Anita Park has received approval from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to resume safe live racing beginning May 15 as part of the county’s revision of its “Safer at Home” guidelines. Racing will be conducted without spectators and with essential personnel following strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Protocols call for mandatory face masks and daily health screening, including temperature checks; mandatory social distancing while on the property; increased sanitation procedures; the creation of a Restricted Zone housing jockeys, valets, and other essential personnel who must have a negative COVID-19 test to access; and revised saddling and pre-race protocols to increase physical distancing.

“We are very grateful for the open and continuous communication with both the health department and supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office,” said Aidan Butler, the executive director of California racing operations for The Stronach Group, which operates Santa Anita. “Supervisor Barger, in particular, understood the importance of live racing to support thousands of individuals and that we are able to accomplish it safely under these protocols.

“We also want to thank our stakeholders, including the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, the Jockeys’ Guild, our Santa Anita Park team, and our fans, for their patience during this pandemic. This has been a difficult time for all. Now we are focused on getting back to work in a safe and secure manner.”

Santa Anita has been closed since the health department ordered a cessation of racing March 27. Track officials submitted a proposal to Barger on April 16 asking for a return to live racing as soon as possible with strict protocols in place and without spectators. The May 15 opening date—the date the “Safer at Home” order was originally expected to expire—was set by track owner TSG. On April 30, the Santa Anita racing office released a revised condition book along with an updated stakes schedule. Entries for Friday’s card were taken May 12.

The May 15 card features nine races with a total of 94 horses and three also-eligibles. Maiden, claiming, and allowance races ranging in purses from $17,000 to $51,000 comprise the card.