The spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) around the world reached a peak over the past week. Throughout Europe and now the United States, public gatherings are being restricted or prohibited, and quarantines are becoming very common. Schools are closing, restaurants and bars are shutting down, and people are encouraged to stay home.
As these quarantining efforts have increased in the US in the past few days, changes are also in the works for the betting and gambling communities. Casinos are closing to prevent the virus from spreading, and horse racing tracks are prohibiting spectators from watching races.
The thoroughbreds have yet to weigh in on the lack of spectators.
The rest of the industry, however, is reeling. Some have online betting options for fans, but the revenue from fan attendance cannot be replaced. There will be some tracks in America hit harder than others, with the eventual fallout unpredictable.
No Spectators at Any US Track
While we cannot confirm that every race track in America is prohibiting all spectators, this is the decision of most tracks. No spectators allowed.
As of March 15, 2020, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended that people across America refrain from gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.
This is not mandatory, but most large venues are adhering to the guidelines for the safety of fans and employees alike. And many states, like California and New York, are using that recommendation to mandate the closing of many venues and businesses. Race tracks are most certainly in that category.
Track Restrictions and Closures
With a situation that is constantly evolving as the crisis intensifies, this list will be changing. As of Monday morning, March 16, this is the latest information we have obtained.
Churchill Downs: Track, training center, and stable areas opening delayed until March 31
Ellis Park: Closed until advised it is safe to reopen
Fair Grounds Race Course: Racing to continue without spectators through March 29
Golden Gate Fields: Racing Board to oversee live racing as track closed to the public
Gulfstream Park: No public attendance allowed but racing continues
Keeneland: Operations suspended through March 29, closed to nonessential guests and horsemen
Kentucky Downs: Closed through March 30
Laurel Park: Closed to the general public until the state of emergency ends, live racing continues
Oaklawn Park: Racing continues without spectators
Parx Racing: All racing discontinued for a minimum of two weeks
Pimlico Race Course: Closed to the general public until the state of emergency ends, live racing continues
Rosecroft: Racing continues but track closed to the general public until the state of emergency ends
Santa Anita Park: Live racing to continue with Racing Board attendees but without spectators
Sunland Park: Closing for 2-3 weeks as required, Sunland Derby canceled
Tampa Bay Downs: Racing to continue without spectators with limited personnel only
Turf Paradise: Season ended immediately on March 14
Turfway Park: Racing continues without spectators
Kentucky Derby in Limbo
One of the biggest and most popular horse races of the year may be a casualty of the coronavirus cancellations. The Kentucky Derby is currently scheduled to run, but this could change, or the race could run without fans in the stands.
This weekend, Churchill Downs decided to voluntarily suspend simulcasting operations for 14 days out of an abundance of caution.
As for the Derby itself, a message on the website notes that it is a “cherished and important time for the City of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” They also maintain an awareness of fans who travel from far away to join in the excitement and employees who have already started preparations.
“We have been working carefully and diligently with relevant health experts and authorities to ensure we make the most responsible decision regarding the timing of the 146th Kentucky Derby this year.”
Another announcement is expected this week.
The Kentucky Derby is set to run on May 2. The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico is set for May 17, though the state of Maryland is currently prohibiting large gatherings. Further, the Maryland Jockey Club temporarily closed Pimlico and other tracks in the state. There will likely be no announcement about the Preakness before one concerning the Derby.