Santa Anita Park announced Tuesday that it will remain closed for live racing through at least the weekend, prompting the postponement of the GI Santa Anita Derby and GII Santa Anita Oaks, which where scheduled for this Saturday, Apr. 4, to an undetermined date later in the meet. Racing was halted at Santa Anita last Friday on orders of the Los Angeles County Health Department, which has closed all businesses deemed non-essential in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been no known cases of COVID-19 at Santa Anita Park at this time.
“At Santa Anita Park, the health, safety and welfare of every person and every horse in our community remains our top priority,” read a release from the track. “We are continuing to have constructive dialogue with the LA County Health Department and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and her staff. In cooperation with our industry stake holders, a proposal was submitted earlier this week which we believe was fully responsive to their requests. We have yet to receive a satisfactory response to that proposal.
“Numerous racetracks around the country are continuing to operate. They are running for exactly the same reasons that Santa Anita is trying to communicate to LA County officials–because the consequences of closing down the economic engine that fuels the community makes the risks and potential issues significantly worse when racing is closed and only training allowed.
“There are over 1,700 horses stabled at Santa Anita who require daily care provided by more than 750 backstretch team members. Most of these team members live on-site and have been operating under stringent new measures for protection aligned with the best guidance from local and international health and government authorities on COVID-19. The track has been closed to the general public and closed to all but essential personnel since Mar. 12, 2020.
“We will continue to work with county health authorities to familiarize them with the protocols already in place and our plans to protect the health and safety of the community who works with the horses and calls Santa Anita home.”
“I feel for so many right now,” wrote trainer Doug O'Neill in a text. “Grateful that [Santa Anita] and [San Luis Rey Downs] are still open for training. Hoping numbers of virus go down and we can return to racing soon.”
O'Neill added that he's “grateful” TSG's San Francisco Bay Area-situated Golden Gate Fields remains open for “safe, non-spectator, social distancing aware racing.” Live racing there runs this Thursday through Sunday, and O'Neill wrote that he hopes to run “daily up there until [Santa Anita] is back racing.”
Additional reporting by Dan Ross.