Fauci was taken over by Prisoner, but horse racing still returned from the coronavirus on Wednesday at Belmont Park.
At 1:21 p.m., the sanitized front doors opened and live sports officially returned to New York for the first time in 80 days after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the state. It may have looked different, with masks as common as the loss of tickets used to be and the grandstand was left empty with no spectators allowed in, but on the dirt and grass the horsemen and horsemen returned to Work for the first 10 races at the delayed spring / summer meeting at Belmont, which brought in an opening record of $ 10,972,254.
One of the day’s biggest betting favorites, Fauci, named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, was kept at a social distance by Prisoner, the maiden trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Repole Stables who beat the money colt by 4 ¾ long. .
Still, it was hardly another day in racing for the riders involved.
“It means the world to me,” said Reylu Gutierrez, the Rochester native who rode Star of the West to win in the first race of the day. “I grew up watching NYRA races and grew up in Finger Lakes. I was here during the entire pandemic. I was galloping horses, trotting horses, breezing horses, whatever it took to earn my place here at NYRA. … I had to cry a little bit after the cable because it really means a lot to me. “
An hour before the first release, the national anthem played for a handful of workers scattered across the track. Shortly after, track announcer John Imbriale announced the scratches and changes for the day’s races on the public address system. Except there were no fans there to listen to them and run to the windows to add last minute bets.
Before the first subsequent parade, Imbriale paid tribute to those who were lost in the pandemic, including a Belmont buttress worker, Martin Zapata, saying that the opening day of the races was dedicated “to the lost and to those who continue to fight. against this disease. ” Then there was a moment of silence as the riders stood apart in an area near the paddock, then they knelt for nearly a minute in solidarity with protesters across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“A lot is happening right now in the world. It is important to show respect for all causes and all people and show that here at NYRA we support everyone,” said Gutierrez. “Horse racing in general supports all ethnic groups everywhere. Horse racing is a world sport and it doesn’t matter what color you are, what religion you are, what [ethnicity] you are, what matters is in horse racing, we are one. “
In the day’s only graded bets, Grade 3 Beaugay Javier Castellano, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, won in Rushing Fall in a cable-to-cable effort.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. had a good day, winning five races at Prisoner, Strongerthanuknow (the first winner of the New York-bred match), Madita, Value Proposition and In the Loop.
There were some normal horse racing issues along the way. Adjusting to 2020 fashion, the skies opened and poured during the second race, in which Smile Bryan outperformed the leading leader, Polar Bear Pete, though it soon cleared up. Gaultier and Hidden Scroll lost their riders out of the gate in separate races later in the day, while Too Fast to Pass was stopped before the finish line with a career injury.
They will now do it again on Thursday as the 25-day meeting continues, with health and safety protocols to protect everyone involved.
“Everyone from the top brass to the people who work here have done a fantastic job,” Gutierrez said. “I feel very safe here.”