Thoroughbred racing will return to Belmont Park for a 25-day meet beginning June 3, and likely will include the rescheduled Belmont Stakes as the first leg of this year’s reshuffled Triple Crown series.
No fans will be in the grandstand, a condition set by Gov Cuomo last Saturday when he authorized horse tracks and the popular auto racing track at Watkins Glen can reopen effective June 1.
“The problem here is crowds and gatherings,” Cuomo said in a video of his daily COVID-19 briefing. “What economic activity wants to start up without a crowd? We’re going to do that in this state starting with horse racing tracks. There’s gonna be guidelines for the actual participants, but no crowds, no fans. But for the industry itself, for the television viewers, that can still work.”
The COVID-19 outbreak led in March to the suspension of the final three weeks of winter racing season at South Ozone park’s Aqueduct racetrack, which was scheduled to end on March 29.
Aqueduct’s spring meet from April 2 through 19 also was suspended, including the annual Wood Memorial Stakes, which is one of the country’s major prep races for Kentucky Derby contenders. It was originally scheduled for April 4.
As of now, the Belmont Stakes, traditionally the third leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, originally scheduled for June 6, is scheduled for June 20. The Kentucky Derby will follow on Sept. 5, and the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 5.
While there will be no fans placing bets at the track, racing officials have been promoting the association’s NYRA Bets online accounts on social media platforms in recent days.
Aqueduct’s grounds, if not the racing facilities, have been pressed into service since the outbreak. The parking lot, which it shares with Resorts World Casino, has been hosting drive-up coronavirus testing since March.
It also was the agreed-upon site of a temporary 1,000-bed hospital that was to have been built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The plan was abandoned as the city’s number of COVID-19 cases plateaued and began dropping.