Horse Racing Continues In Florida After Governor’s Stay-Home Order

Posted on: April 2, 2020, 05:15h. 

Last updated on: April 2, 2020, 09:33h.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for residents, as the Sunshine State tries to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Racing will continue at Tampa Bay Downs (above) and at Gulfstream Park even after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay home order on Wednesday. (Image: JGHowes/Wikimedia Commons)

One business, though, that won’t be affected by the Florida Republican’s order is the horse racing industry.

Representatives from both Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park told that it will remain business as usual at the two tracks even after the governor’s order goes into effect a minute past midnight on Friday.

Margo Flynn, vice president of marketing at Tampa Bay Downs, said the track will continue to race as it has since mid-March.

Our plan is to run with us being closed down to the public and the extraordinary measures we have regarding any horse personnel that need to take care of the horses regardless of the situation,” Flynn said.

Tampa Bay’s meet is scheduled to end on Sunday, May 3.

Horse Racing Not Always Staying Home

The order given by DeSantis notes that Floridians can still leave their home to perform “essential activities” during the coronavirus outbreak. While that includes the 16 key infrastructure sectors the federal government outlines in its guidance to states, it does not specifically cite horse racing.

When it comes to such orders, the impact on racing has seen other states issue similar orders and horse racing has continued.

On March 20, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-home order for his state. But racing continued at Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Cal Expo. Only a week later did Santa Anita close after the California Horse Racing Board outlined its guidance that tracks heed the recommendation from county health officials.

Racing is still set to continue Friday, with thoroughbreds at Golden Gate and quarter horses at Los Alamitos. But on Wednesday, Sacramento County officials put a halt to harness racing at Cal Expo.

Proponents of racing say the sport is necessary to keep agricultural operations going, as the purse money from races fund that work. In addition, they also cite that race horses are finely trained athletes who need proper supervision and exercise on an ongoing basis for their health and safety.

Gulfstream Readies for Spring-Summer Meet

At Gulfstream Park, David Joseph, the track’s vice president of communications and media relations, told Wednesday that track officials have already drawn post positions for Thursday’s card, which kicks off its Spring-Summer Meet.

The Track’s Championship Meet ended last weekend, culminating with the Florida Derby, one of the top Kentucky Derby prep races.

At least one official in Hallandale Beach called on the track to follow Broward County’s guidelines for curbing the spread of COVID-19.

However, while Gulfstream has continued to run, it has taken several steps toward controlling the coronavirus. It shut down one Friday card in order to enact safety protocols, including keeping jockey lockers six feet apart and not allowing physical contact between either jockeys or the track’s grounds crew.

Last week, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano tested positive for COVID-19 when he attempted to return to Gulfstream after spending time with his family in New York. Castellano, who was asymptomatic, must stay in quarantine at least another week before he could possibly be cleared to ride at the South Florida track.