Saratoga Race Course won’t allow jockeys to ride at the track if the jockey leaves during its upcoming summer meet to ride elsewhere, under a fresh protocol announced Tuesday amid an unsettling recent spate of positive coronavirus tests in the U.S. riding community.
Under the new policy, which was hashed out through discussions with representatives of NY horsemen and The Jockeys’ Guild over the last several days, Saratoga will seek to create a closed riding colony to be able to limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. Beginning Thursday, opening day of the prestigious Saratoga meet, no jockey will be allowed on to the grounds if the rider has ridden at any track apart from Saratoga after the start of the track’s live meet.
“These measures prioritize medical and safety of the jockeys competing in NY and are made to combat the spread of COVID-19,” the condition due to the novel coronavirus, David O’Rourke, ceo of the brand new York Racing Association, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the restrictive travel policies implemented today have become necessary as cases continue steadily to rise in states in the united states.”
Previously six days, at least six jockeys have tested positive for coronavirus, five of whom rode at Los Alamitos in LA County on the July 3 or July 4 cards. A lot of those riders then fanned out in the united states to ride at tracks in Kentucky, Iowa, Indiana, NY, and Southern California before learning that they had been subjected to the virus. The latest jockey to check positive, Florent Geroux, rode at Belmont on Saturday, sandwiched between taking mounts at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.
Terry Meyocks, leader of The Jockeys’ Guild, called the new policy a “common-sense approach to add a layer of protection” for riders through the Saratoga meet.
“Our membership stands completely support of the new travel protocols,” Meyocks said.
Riders will have to test negative from a swab taken within five days of riding their first mount at Saratoga in order to be allowed to the grounds, according to the NY Racing Association, which operates Saratoga. Under previous protocols, Saratoga was looking to allow riders to ship-in to the track to ride, while isolating the riders in separate quarters, but that may no longer be allowed if the jockey has ridden at any track other than Saratoga since the start of the meet.
All personnel who will just work at Saratoga this season are being required to give a negative coronavirus test ahead of being allowed on the property, NYRA said. Jockeys and valets will never be allowed in the barn area.
The brand new policy may place some riders in a quandary because of the running of the $1 million Haskell Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park in NJ, which is setting up as a crucial prep race because of this year’s rescheduled Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. In a typical year, many Saratoga riders accept mounts for the Haskell card, which this year will have five stakes as well as the Haskell.
Jockeys Irad Ortiz Jr. and Ricardo Santana Jr. were scheduled to ride at Monmouth on Saturday. The agents for both riders said Tuesday that they can stay static in Saratoga. For Ortiz, which means he won’t manage to ride Dr Post in the Haskell along with other mounts for trainer Chad Brown in undercard stakes. Santana was scheduled to ride three stakes horses at Monmouth, especially She’s a Julie in the Molly Pitcher.
Steve Rushing, Ortiz’s agent, said NYRA made the right decision.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Rushing said. “At this time, we must do whatever we need to do to keep racing, whatever needs doing. It’s not great, it’s not ideal but hey, every jockey’s in the same situation. In the event that you can’t walk out town, you can’t walk out town. We’re just fortunate that we’re racing.”
Ruben Munoz, the agent for Santana, said “I can’t sacrifice the complete meet at Saratoga for one day.”