By Bill Finley
With Lone Star Park officials having little to say about the abrupt shut down of racing after Sunday's first race, it was unclear when racing would resume at the Dallas area track or if the meet will be canceled.
Citing a conversation with racing secretary Tim Williams, the Daily Racing Form reported Monday that the three days of racing scheduled for this week would not be held.
Lone Star's decision to stop racing may be related to the news that jockey Gerard Melancon has tested positive for the coronavirus. A regular at Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs, Melancon last rode June 28 on shipper Mocito Rojo (Mutadda) in the Lone Star Mile.
According to multiple reports, a person working in the jockey's room who was responsible for handling the silks, also tested positive.
After the first race was run Sunday, the rest of the card was canceled. The only explanation was a post on Lone Star's twitter account that read: “Due to an overabundance of caution and due to the coronavirus, racing for today has been cancelled. Racing will resume on a date to be determined.”
As of deadline for this story, Lone Star had yet to make any announcements concerning the shut down. Lone Star President Scott Wells had not returned phone calls seeking clarification of the situation.
“They had some people at the track test positive and they learned of this Sunday, shortly after the horses came out of the gate for the first race,” said Mary Ruyle, the executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association. “They'll need to do a good number of tests on people and also do a deep clean and disinfect areas. They are looking at how long that will take.”
With no word out of Lone Star, many trainers were left to wonder if the meet will resume and, if so, when. It is scheduled to conclude Aug. 11.
“You know the racetrack, you hear 100 different things,” trainer Robertino Diodoro said. “But I have been told by my sources that they have every intention of finishing the meet and that right now the target date to resume is the 19th. I've been told they will finish the meet. Hopefully, this is nothing more than a hiccup.”
Others weren't so sure.
“I think that's a safe bet, that they won't run again this year,” trainer Karl Broberg said. “When you realize what is happening in Texas and that cases are just going to continue to grow. I'm a pessimist by nature, but that's where I would put my money. They're going to have to stay shut because other people are going to test positive.”
Texas has become a hot spot for the coronavirus. According to the New York Times, there were 6,289 new cases of the virus reported Saturday and total coronavirus-related deaths in the state have been 2,667.
According to sources, anyone involved in racing at Lone Star that came in touch with those who have tested positive for the virus will have to self quarantine for 14 days. Indiana Grand announced Monday that any jockeys, exercise riders or grooms who had been working at Lone Star will not be allowed on the racetrack property until after they had self quarantined for 14 days.
Melancon, who is 53, said he is not sure if he got the virus during his trip to Lone Star. He said he began to feel sick the following day, after he returned to Louisiana.
“Nobody knows for sure where I picked this up,” he said.
Melancon said he is feeling better and looking forward to riding again.
“I want to make sure it is safe before I ride again,” he said. “I don't want to be around people if I am going to be sick. I want to feel 100%. People are scared to death of this.”