Increasing pressure to shelter-in-place and suspend non-essential business during the coronavirus pandemic has led to the immediate and indefinite suspension of racing at Santa Anita Park.
“In accordance with instructions received from Los Angeles County Health Department, Santa Anita Park will temporarily close for live racing effective immediately in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a track statement, which was emailed at 12:48 p.m. PDT, only 12 minutes before post time for Friday’s first race.
There are no known or confirmed cases of the coronavirus at Santa Anita, where the track has been off limits to all but essential personnel for the past two weeks.
With Santa Anita shut down, only Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Oaklawn Park, Remington Park and Tampa Bay Downs were left to stage races Friday – still in front of empty grandstands. All five tracks are also scheduled to have racing Saturday, including the $750,000 Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, where there has been mounting pressure from city and county leaders to suspend competition.
While other sports have been canceled, racetrack operators and horsemen have defended the decision to keep going, because the same personnel who look after horses and exercise them are the ones who race them.
Aqueduct in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland are the biggest tracks where racing had already been suspended. Other racecourses that are closed include Charles Town, the Fair Grounds, Penn National, Sam Houston Park, Sunland Park and Turfway Park. Spring meets have been postponed or canceled at Keeneland and Woodbine.