Horse Racing: Preakness Set for Oct. 3; New York to Resume Racing; Churchill, Santa Anita Draw Bettors

Posted on: May 16, 2020, 08:11h. 

Last updated on: May 17, 2020, 10:54h.

Saturday should have been the day for Belinda Stronach and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to be in the infield of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. They, along with another 100,000 or so, would have witnessed whether this year’s Preakness Stakes would give us a chance to see a Triple Crown winner.

Preakness Baltimore Pimlico
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (center) attends the 2019 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. On Saturday, Hogan announced the 2020 Preakness will take place on Oct. 3. (Image: Gov. Larry Hogan/Facebook)

Instead, Hogan, Stronach, and many others were home Saturday, as the COVID-19 pandemic kept the historic track closed. And instead of handing out the Woodlawn Vase to the winner, Hogan on Saturday announced the Preakness would run on Oct. 3 at The Stronach Group-owned track.

“I am delighted that we were successful in working with 1/ST (Stronach), the Maryland Jockey Club, and all who are connected to Maryland’s Thoroughbred racing industry to set the new date of October 3rd,” Hogan announced on NBC.

Traditionally, the Preakness Stakes runs two weeks after the Kentucky Derby in the schedule of Triple Crown races. This year, though, the races will be nearly a month apart, as Churchill Downs will run the Derby on Sept. 5.

It remains to be seen when the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, will take place. Because the Breeders’ Cup Classic is set for Nov. 7 this year, it’s possible the Belmont may not run in its traditional spot – three weeks after the Preakness.

Cuomo Allows Racing’s Return in New York

While we do not know yet when the Belmont will run, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his daily COVID-19 briefing that New York’s horse tracks will be able to resume racing as of June 1.

Just as racing has restarted at other tracks and states, most recently at Churchill Downs Saturday and California’s Santa Anita on Friday, Cuomo said New York horse racing will start without fans in the stands and with rigid guidelines for those working at the track.

New York Racing Association CEO and President Dave O’Rourke thanked Cuomo for giving the go-ahead for the sport to resume in the state. Racing last took place at Aqueduct, which ran some cards without fans in March, but stopped racing after a track worker at Belmont Park tested positive for the coronavirus.

Racing officials will use a detailed plan that includes several procedures and regulations to keep horsemen and other track workers safe, he added.

The governor has reiterated during these challenging times that sports provide much needed entertainment for New Yorkers. Thanks to Gov. 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,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

NYRA will reveal the schedule for Belmont Park’s meet, as well as its stakes races in the “very near future,” he added.

Churchill Downs, Santa Anita See Big First-Day Handles

Churchill and Santa Anita both enjoyed strong first days at the track from a betting perspective.

On Friday, Santa Anita’s first slate of races since late March produced a handle of $11.2 million. That’s a jump of more than $4 million from what was wagered on the corresponding Friday last year.

Meanwhile, Churchill Downs had a banner day via mobile wagering Saturday for its first day of the spring meet. Track officials announced Saturday’s handle was $14.3 million, nearly tripling the $5 million handle from the corresponding Saturday last year.

Part of the increase for both tracks is the lack of competition because of COVID-19 closures nationwide. On Friday, Santa Anita was one of seven tracks running, and Churchill was one of eight racing Saturday.

This time last year, more than 40 tracks offered racing across North America.