As many sports leagues have postponed their seasons due to COVID-19, as sports fans, we’re thinking there’s nothing to watch, nothing to talk about and even nothing to gamble on, but you’re wrong. Horse racing remains the only sport competing right now. Yes, big races like the Kentucky Derby have been postponed to September, Keeneland, and Aqueduct have been cancelled until further notice, but some tracks remain open. For now, many tracks are running as scheduled, with numerous precautions. Yet, many are wondering how is this sport able to go on?
Tracks that are still running include, Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Fonner Park, Los Alamitos, Tampa Bay Downs, and Will Rogers Downs. These tracks are not letting spectators in and they put limits on the number of people allowed in the areas at a time. Tracks don’t need many people to operate a racetrack without spectators. The only people allowed inside are the owners, jockeys and staff. All the trainers are on the grounds of the tracks taking care of the horses along with the owners and jockeys, so they don’t have to travel, and they all live within the confines of the tracks. Stables are far apart from one another being able to follow social distancing and workers who look after the horses are provided with dorm rooms for isolation. Each track is taking individuals temperatures when they arrive to work before they walk into the gate. This is a sport where the athlete is the horse, which Covid-19 is not infectious to horses, which is helpful.
Advocates of racing say the sport is crucial to keeping agricultural functions going, since money from races fund that work. In addition, horses are trained athletes who need proper care and exercise daily for their health and safety. Horses aren’t like domestic pets, they can’t live in people’s homes. They have strict diets, exercise regimes and need controlled and safe living environments. They cannot be kept inside there stalls all day. Also, they need their stables cleaned, medical needs and their shoes replaced, all of which are important to maintain their health.
There are so many people involved to care for a horse. There’s the breeding industry, the service providers, transports, vets, dentist, farriers, physios, and food merchants. If racing were to be canceled, many of these workers would be unemployed. If they can’t run and generate revenue, it would be a huge economic impact on everybody involved.
Canceling horse racing is different than canceling other sports leagues. Horses can’t train or care for themselves, while human athletes can. It takes a team to get them prepared for a race. With proper safety protocols, the sport has shown it can carry on without spectators on-site. This is a time where the sport can take this opportunity and create new fans and have mainstream interest while other leagues are suspended. So, if you’re bored at home, there’s plenty of racing for those who might be interested in giving it a try.