By Melissa Koenig
Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet can officially begin on June 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily news conference on Saturday.
“There’ll be guidelines for the actual participants — no crowds, no fans,” he said. “For the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that could still work.”
New York Racing Association and local officials said they were pleased with the announcement. Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach who urged the state to reopen the Park, said the decision was “welcomed news,” and NYRA President David O’Rourke called it a “reasoned and responsible decision … that will enable horse racing to resume in a way that prioritizes health and safety.”
Last month, NYRA officials announced that they had 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.
Additionally, they announced on May 15 that they had partnered with Northwell Health to secure coronavirus antibody tests for NYRA employees and backstretch workers at Belmont Park. Northwell personnel would administer the tests, and would communicate the results within two days.
“This broad testing program will provide additional insight, allowing us to more fully understand how Covid-19 has impacted our community,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “Going forward, this is a positive step in NYRA’s overall testing program, as we work toward our goal of providing universal access to both diagnostic testing and antibody testing.”
In a statement on its website in April, NYRA officials also 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 begin the return to a new normal.”
The Belmont Park main track officially opened for training on May 12.