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Belmont main track opens for training

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The Belmont Park main track officially opened for training on May 12, as the spring/summer meet remains delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The outriders and gate crew, wearing masks and gloves, opened the track at 5:30 a.m. to complement the dirt track, which has remained open throughout the New York Racing Association’s supension of live racing.

But officials announced on April 29 that they plan to resume live racing at some point this year without fans. They said they have plans in place to “prioritize the health and safety of employees, horsemen and the backstretch community.”

NYRA’s Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan Committee — comprising NYRA staff members, representatives from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Backstretch Employee Service Team and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America — has already implemented a number of safety initiatives, including daily temperature checks, mandating employees wear masks and gloves, and maintaining social distancing.

In a statement on its website in April, NYRA officials wrote that they “are committed to taking every step possible to keep our communities safe, while providing entertainment and contributing to the New York economy as we collectively egin the return to a new normal.”

NYRA Communications Director Pat McKenna declined to comment on when live racing could start, and what that would mean for the Belmont Stakes. But in an interview on ESPN Radio’s “The Team” on April 30, he said “we have everything in place” and “we can get going pretty quickly” once Cuomo allows the organization to resume its operations.

“Our focus right now is resuming live racing in a safe and secure way at Belmont Park as soon as possible,” McKenna said, “so that we can support the horsemen and the backstretch community that has been working throughout this pandemic.”