By Sean Morris

American Horse Racing feels impact of Coronavirus

By Sean Morris
Keeneland has closed following the Coronavirus outbreak
Keeneland has closed following the Coronavirus outbreak


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While much of the country has shuttered its doors as the nation attempts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases horse racing is forging ahead in the U.S. Aside from a few notable exceptions, the majority of tracks are going to continue to operate sans spectators, with only necessary personnel on hand to safely conduct racing.

The biggest upheaval in the sport came on March 17, when it was announced via teleconference that the Kentucky Derby, run annually on the first Saturday in May, would be postponed until September 5. The move is sure to send shockwaves through the industry as so much of the racing calendar is geared toward the event, though there’s been no word yet on how the other two legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes on May 16 and the Belmont Stakes on June 6, will be impacted.

A day prior to the Derby bombshell, Keeneland stunned the racing world by cancelling its Spring Meet, which along with Saratoga Race Course’s Summer Meet is one of the most prestigious and lucrative in the country. Other noteworthy cancellations include Parx Racing, which has suspended its operations indefinitely, and Sunland Park, which will be closed for three weeks including March 22, the day its marquee race, the Sunland Derby, was meant to be held.

In the pro-racing column, the New York Racing Association announced on March 16 that Aqueduct Racetrack would continue to operate behind closed doors when racing resumes on March 20. The Queens, NY track had shifted to spectatorless racing on March 12, and will continue to conduct racing as such for the foreseeable future in compliance with the state of New York’s moratorium on gatherings of more than 50 people.

Other major winter hubs like Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, and the Fair Grounds have also switched to this closed-doors model. On March 21, the Fair Grounds will go ahead as scheduled with the Grade 1, $1 million Louisiana Derby without fans in attendance, and Gulfstream has announced the same policy will be in place for the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 28. Oaklawn has currently committed to spectator-free racing through March 30.

Thoroughbred tracks racing without spectators:


Fair Grounds

Fairmount Park (no Saturday racing)

Golden Gate Fields

Gulfstream Park

Laurel Park

Mahoning Valley

Oaklawn Park

Penn National

Sam Houston

Santa Anita

Tampa Bay Downs

Turfway Park


Thoroughbred track closures:

Evangeline Downs (training cancelled, meet postponed)


Monmouth Park (opening day moved to May 23)

Parx Racing (indefinitely)

Sunland Park (closed until April 5)

Turf Paradise

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