Cuomo: racing can resume without spectators as early as June 1; NYRA’s O’Rourke applauds decision

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

Briefing screen shot 5/16

By Sarah Mace

Governor Cuomo announced during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Saturday, May 16 that horse racing can resume in New York as early as June 1.

Discussing his phased reopening plan of New York’s economy early in the briefing, Cuomo said, “We’re getting more nuanced in our analysis, looking at economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings. Remember, the problem here are crowds and gathering. What economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd?

“We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks and we’re going to do that. There will be guidelines for the actual participants, but no crowds, no fans. But for the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work.”

NYRA has already submitted a comprehensive plan to the state and the New York Gaming Commission outlining the steps it is taking to maintain a safe environment for those who must be on hand to conduct racing.

On May 21 NYRA issued a statement about “seeking to resume live racing at Belmont Park in the absence of fans” and announced that it “[has] prepared operating plans that follow the same model for Saratoga.” The statement continues, in part:

“These plans prioritize the health and safety of employees, horsemen and the backstretch community and include a broad array of risk mitigation strategies developed according to the most updated heath guidance. By closing to the public, layering additional health and safety protocols to our ongoing practices, and reducing the number of employees on-property, NYRA is in a position to provide a small sense of normalcy for fans across the country who can watch on television and online.”

NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke also issued a statement Saturday in response to the Governor’s announcement, adding that race dates and a corresponding stakes schedule for Belmont Park will be announced in “the very near future”:

NYRA and the New York racing community are thankful for Governor Cuomo’s steady leadership throughout this public health crisis and we applaud his decision to authorize the resumption of horse racing, without fans, beginning on June 1. This is a reasoned and responsible decision by Governor Cuomo that will enable horse racing to resume in a way that prioritizes health and safety while recognizing that NYRA is the cornerstone of an industry responsible for 19,000 jobs and $3 billion in annual economic impact.

We look forward to the resumption of live racing at Belmont Park with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place to support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of thoroughbred racing in New York.

NYRA has developed a comprehensive safety plan that builds on our experience of operating training safely and responsibly during the pandemic, and includes extensive protocols to keep our community safe.

With this safety plan in place, NYRA will announce race dates and a corresponding stakes schedule for the 2020 spring/summer meet at Belmont Park in the very near future.

The Governor has reiterated during these challenging times that sports provide much needed entertainment for New Yorkers. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and his team, fans across New York and around the country can look forward to the return of horse racing from beautiful Belmont Park.

VIDEO of the Governor’s remarks with ASL interpretation will soon be available on YouTube here.

AUDIO of the remarks will soon be available here.

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