Eighty days since the last time a live sports event was held in New York before the coronavirus pandemic closed the state, horse racing will be the first to return Wednesday at Belmont Park.
The first posting schedule is slated for 1:15 p.m., with 10 races on record for the opening day of Belmont’s delayed and shortened 25-day season that runs through July 12.
“There’s nothing better than looking at horses, it’s good for the soul,” Bob Baffert, coach of the Fame of Fame, who has Mother Mother ready to race Friday at Belmont, said Tuesday. “I’m happy for [Belmont]I am happy for the workers on the final stretch, which is more important. Horse racing has been around for so long that it distracts you from the bad things that are happening in this world. I’m glad they’re opening. “
Horse racing was the last standing sport in New York, when Aqueduct had a last day of racing on March 15, days after the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA stopped playing. While none of the major professional sports has a firm return date (other than the NFL planning to meet the schedule in September), racing at Belmont Park has a chance to help fill the gap in live sports in the meantime.
The grandstand will remain empty, with no spectators allowed, but 130 horses will be carried to the ground and grass with $ 511,000 combined wallets on the line.
“I think they will see some really exciting races,” said veteran New York coach Rick Schosberg. “I think we will see some great offers, obviously, because we haven’t run in a long time.” I think it was something that was fine for horses. I think they enjoyed a little kickback. “
The main opening day attraction will be the Grade Three Beaugay Stakes, the 1 1/16-mile turf race with a $ 100,000 bag and 5:36 p.m. posting time, pitting Rushing Fall against Got Stormy.
But Fauci, the 2-year-old maid trained by Wesley Ward and named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, has a chance to steal the day in the third race.
During the 2 ¹ / ₂ months since racing was suspended in New York, health and safety protocols were adopted to protect the nearly 600 back-stretching resident workers who continued to care for the 1,300 horses in Belmont.
Even more precautions will be taken on Wednesday. Riders, who must provide a negative COVID-19 test within five days of Wednesday or a positive antibody test, will be medically examined daily. To allow for social distancing, there will be stations for just 12 passengers in the main riders’ lounge with the rest extended to additional areas in the basement, all of which will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized every night.
Riders, like everyone else, must wear masks, though they can be lowered during the royal race, which of course will run without fans.
“The riders will not be yelled at as they walk back through the tunnel, except perhaps for the coaches,” Schosberg said with a smile, “but it will be a little different, especially in Belmont, because Belmont is so big.”
Although Wednesday’s action will only be the first step back, it will begin to set the stage for Belmont’s betting on June 20. The third stage of the Triple Crown will be the first this year, as the pandemic has rocked the sport, but the riders involved are happy to have to run again in New York.
“It’s kind of the center stage of the races,” said Baffert, who has finished two triple crowns at Belmont and could have Charlatan running in this month’s big race. “When you win there, it means much more. … I love going there, because when you can win there, it is the greatest achievement to win in New York. “