There was doubt heading into Friday (that California’s active Thoroughbred tracks, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields, would continue to race given a “stay at home order” handed down by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
First post arrived, however, and the races continued at both tracks operated by The Stronach Group, which has allowed only essential personnel to race on site with enhanced sanitary standards.
In a statement published to Santa Anita’s Twitter account, the track said that “all profits from racing will go to a charity or multiple charities supporting Coronavirus relief efforts in the community.”
While an on-track crowd isn’t allowed at Santa Anita for the foreseeable future, its races will be featured on national TV broadcasts over the weekend as America’s Day at the Races airs on Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network picks up TVG’s Trackside Live.
The Stronach Group came to its conclusion to race “having consulted with our governmental and industry partners.”
“Racehorses are living, breathing animals that require constant supervision and care — from feeding, to exercise, to veterinary care,” the statement says. “Horses cannot survive without human contact and care. Racehorses are conditioned athletes and standing in a stall without daily exercise is detrimental to their health, safety and welfare.”
Santa Anita’s Saturday card consists of two stakes, both on turf: the San Simeon (G3) at 5 1/2 furlongs featuring a matchup of Cistron and Bound for Nowhere, and the San Luis Rey (G3) at 1 1/2 miles with Oscar Dominguez the one to beat.
Before Newsom's order delivered Thursday evening, Santa Anita's publicity staff passed on an updated policy on safety at the track, saying, "We are in full compliance with all government and local health orders and are taking every possible precaution and safeguard to ensure the health and safety of the limited number of essential racing personnel required to operate racing without fans.
"The horse racing industry is unique in several respects and now, perhaps more than ever in these difficult times, we must be mindful of our responsibility to prioritize the safety and well-being of the horses and those who care for them.
"We have the ability to limit exposure per health and governmental regulations while continuing to support our industry."
New policies place restrictions on shippers, with any horses coming to race at a Stronach Group facility in California required to go to a trainer with staff on the grounds.