As authorities are taking action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has just been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, horse racing is not immune to the impact.
The iconic Kentucky Derby (G1) has been postponed to September 5 – the first Saturday in September (see more below) – Keeneland has canceled its Spring Meet, live racing is suspended at Aqueduct after a Belmont-based backstretch worker tested positive, and the Dubai World Cup (G1) is called off. Some tracks are continuing to race behind closed doors.
This post rounds up the announcements through Friday, March 27, but will be updated as additional developments warrant.
Where can I still bet on horse racing?
Tracks racing but without spectators
Golden Gate Fields
Gulfstream Park (policy includes Florida Derby Day, March 28) – Bet on Gulfstream Park Live Racing
Oaklawn Park (through March 30) – Bet on Oaklawn Park Live Racing
Tampa Bay Downs
Will Rogers Downs
So far, the following tracks have canceled live racing altogether.
Aqueduct (rest of scheduled meet; track is serving as temporary hospital)
Buffalo Raceway (until May 2)
Carolina Cup (March 28)
Century Downs (until further notice)
Charles Town (until further notice)
Dover Downs (until further notice)
Evangeline Downs (opening day of April 8 postponed)
Fair Grounds (rest of scheduled meet)
Fairmount Park (through March 30)
Flamboro (until further notice)
Fraser Downs (rest of scheduled meet canceled)
Freehold (until further notice)
Grants Pass (scheduled meet canceled)
Hawthorne (through March 30)
Hoosier (opening day of March 27 postponed)
Keeneland (entire Spring Meet canceled)
Laurel Park (until further notice)
Louisiana Downs (until further notice)
The Meadowlands (until further notice)
The Meadows (until further notice)
Mahoning Valley (until further notice)
Miami Valley (through April 6)
Monmouth Park (opening day postponed to May 23)
Monticello (through March 30)
Northfield Park (through April 6)
Northville Downs (opening day of March 20 postponed indefinitely)
Parx Racing (until further notice)
Penn National (until further notice)
Plainridge Park (opening day of April 6 postponed to June 1)
Pocono (until futher notice)
Pompano Park (until further notice)
Rideau Carleton (until further notice)
Rosecroft Raceway (until further notice)
Sam Houston (rest of Thoroughbred meet as well as Quarter Horse meet)
Santa Anita (until further notice)
Saratoga harness (until further notice)
Sunland Park (through April 5; Sunland Derby canceled)
Turf Paradise (rest of scheduled meet canceled)
Turfway Park (rest of scheduled meet cancelled)
Western Fair (until further notice)
Woodbine (Thoroughbred meet scheduled to open April 18 now postponed indefinitely)
Woodbine Mohawk (until further notice)
Yonkers (through March 28)
Read more on harness racing details from Frank Cotolo: Some Programs Pause Per Covid19; Others Persevere
The Dubai World Cup is the latest high-profile cancellation, with the Dubai Racing Club announcing the decision on March 22. Authorities initially had hoped to go forward with the March 28 card in the absence of spectators.
The United Kingdom is canceling all racing from March 18 through the end of April, the British Horseracing Authority announced March 17. The news came the day after the cancellation of the famed Grand National steeplechase, scheduled for April 4 at Aintree.
“We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors,” said Sandy Dudgeon, Senior Steward of The Jockey Club, “given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but following the new (British) Government measures confirmed this evening (March 16) to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.
“I know this is hugely disappointing news for the many people who work in our sport and the many millions who were looking forward to this year’s event, but very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do.”
A number of jurisdictions are conducting racing without spectators, including Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland (through March 29), Australia, and now South Africa.
Live racing has been canceled in South Korea (through April 5), France (at least through April 15), Ireland (through April 19), New Zealand (through April 21), South Africa (through April 17), India (all tracks for an indefinite period), South America (Uruguay indefinitely), and Mexico (indefinitely).
Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown
The 146th renewal of the Kentucky Derby will be transferred to September 5, Churchill Downs announced March 17. The companion race for fillies, the Kentucky Oaks (G1), will be run the day prior, the first Friday in September.
“Throughout the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first priority has been how to best protect the safety and health of our guests, team members and community,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said.
“As the situation evolved, we reached the difficult conclusion that we needed to reschedule. At no point did we ever consider canceling the Kentucky Derby.”
The Maryland Jockey Club issued a statement regarding the Preakness:
“Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and welfare of our industry participants and the public at large. We are working with state and local governments, our industry participants, media and other affiliates to determine the most appropriate time to conduct the Preakness Stakes.
“While we are mindful of the challenges these times present we also know that events like the Preakness Stakes can help restore our sense of place and economic well-being to our communities and state. As soon as we have further clarity on these matters we will inform all.”
The New York Racing Association CEO and President Dave O’Rourke commented on the Belmont:
“NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else.
“NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.”