Uncertainty rules horse racing industry

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Oaklawn Park set a new all-time track record handle when horseplayers wagered over $19 million on last Saturday’s Apple Blossom Stakes and Count Fleet Handicap card. That record could be short-lived when the Grade I Arkansas Derby is run on closing day, May 2. 

On that same card, with Santa Anita currently shut down, California- based trainers Michael McCarthy, Bob Baffert, John Sadler and Jerry Hollendorfer saddled winning horses. The final seven races on the card were ridden by current or formerly based SoCal jockeys Joel Rosario, Victor Espinoza, Tyler Baze, Joe Talamo and Martin Garcia. 

Tampa Bay Downs in Florida is also currently racing and benefitting from reduced competition, but their closing day is May 3. 

Where will the horses, trainers, and jockeys from those tracks go after their respective meets end? 

The Tampa Bay Downs horses have some options in Florida with racing continuing at Gulfstream Park and stabling available at Gulfstream, Palm Beach Downs, Palm Meadows and Gulfstream Park West. The horsemen from Tampa would not have to serve any quarantine period should they remain in Florida. 

A conference call between Santa Anita officials and the Los Angeles County Health Department last Thursday is expected to lead to an announcement this week as to when it may be possible to resume live racing in California.  

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Churchill Downs is currently scheduled to open its backstretch on April 28, but the opening has already been delayed at least once.  Keeneland is currently not accepting any new stables into its backstretch.   

Belmont Park in New York is closed to ship-in horses with the exception of horses in extenuating circumstances subject to approval from the New York Racing Association. Monmouth Park in New Jersey has postponed their opening day in May to July 3. There is no current start date for meets at Woodbine, Emerald Downs and Churchill Downs. All were scheduled to begin this month. 

It has been acknowledged by health officials that it is essential for thoroughbreds to exercise daily for their health and for the safety of those who care for them. Training continues in most jurisdictions, but racing could basically come to a screeching halt in May if some tracks are not allowed to resume racing, likely without fans in the stands.  

It is important to note that the business model is already designed to be conducted without endangering the public. The horsemen who have been approved to take care of the horses during their exercise programs in the morning are the same people that would be required to work with the horses during live racing. Running races without fans would not cause additional exposure to coronavirus. 

Advance deposit wagering companies make it possible for horseplayers to wager without going to the track. That handle drives purses that help owners pay for the personnel required to care for the horses as well as the health care and living quarters required for those employees. 

Tracks like Oaklawn, Tampa Bay, Will Rogers Downs, Fonner Park, and Gulfstream Park have not had any coronavirus positives from anyone working with the horses during live racing. The same can be said for Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields before racing was shut down. 

The very sensitive ecosystem that is thoroughbred racing could suffer catastrophic damage if tracks are not allowed to resume racing in some capacity very soon. The protocols are in place and have proven they work. It is time for racing to safely resume. 

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Oaklawn Thursday, Race 9 – Lucky Betty (No. 1). Trainer William VanMeter has quietly had a strong Oaklawn meet (29 percent winners). This filly improved nicely when stretched out around two turns to defeat Maidens last time and can come right back on the raise vs. winners. 

About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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