Trainers received a text message Saturday morning regarding the cancellation that read, “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak TODAY, March 21 will be the conclusion of our 2019-2020 meet.”
The meet was originally scheduled to run through March 29.
The Louisiana State Racing Commission on March 20 via teleconference yielded passage of an emergency order, largely protecting horsemen’s rights in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new regulation, effective immediately and spanning 30 days, allows horsemen and horses to shelter in place without threat of eviction; orders adequate access to tracks and exercise facilities at least every other day; allows for the customary movement of horsemen in accordance with meet and training schedules, regardless of whether a meet is underway; and implements the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s recommendations in response to COVID-19 that were issued March 18.
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Fair Grounds previously announced March 13 that it would run races without spectators.
Where Fair Grounds horses, jockeys, and horsemen will compete next is in flux. Keeneland, which canceled its spring race meeting, had been a track at which some Fair Grounds horses and horsemen would race after the meet.
Jockeys that have ridden at Fair Grounds may find Oaklawn off-limits. Even prior to the cancellation of the Fair Grounds meet, Fair Grounds jockey Florent Geroux distributed via social media a statement attributed to Oaklawn that put restrictions on out-of-town riders, particularly those coming from the New Orleans track. The statement, dated as effective March 19, said that only out-of-town jockeys coming to ride stakes races would be permitted as temporary day-of additions to its regular colony, and “any jockey who has been riding regularly at Fairgrounds will not be allowed at Oaklawn for the remainder of the season.” The statement added that “any jockey riding at Oaklawn who goes to Fairgrounds for a riding engagement will not be allowed to ride back at Oaklawn for a minimum of 12 days and will be subject to increased medical protocols.”
These regulations could affect a number of riders, including Ricardo Santana Jr., the leading jockey at Oaklawn, who came to Fair Grounds Saturday to ride the rich Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) day program.