New York to reopen auto, horse racing tracks without fans

FILE PHOTO:  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds daily briefing during outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Valhalla
FILE PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at his daily briefing at New York Medical College during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Valhalla, New York, U.S., May 7, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

May 16, 2020

By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York’s Watkins Glen International auto race circuit and several horse racing tracks in the state can reopen without fans from June 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday.

NASCAR, which returns from a two-month, novel coronavirus-enforced hiatus on Sunday for a fanless event in South Carolina, had previously scheduled a Cup Series race at Watkins Glen for August.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA), which operates three major horse racing tracks, including Belmont Park, the home of the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, applauded the move.

“This is a reasoned and responsible decision by Governor Cuomo that will enable horse racing to resume in a way that prioritizes health and safety,” said NYRA CEO and President Dave O’Rourke.

Last month the NYRA postponed Belmont Park’s spring and summer season but had not yet made a decision on the running of the Belmont Stakes, which was set for June 6.

The first jewel of the Triple Crown series, the Kentucky Derby, was postponed for only the second time ever when it was moved from May 2 to Sept. 5. A date for the Preakness Stakes was expected to be announced later on Saturday.

“We look forward to the resumption of live racing at Belmont Park with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place,” said O’Rourke.

“NYRA will announce race dates and a corresponding stakes schedule for the 2020 spring/summer meet at Belmont Park in the very near future.”

Cuomo, who on Friday began the phased reopening of New York in certain regions, said there would be guidelines for participants in any of the races and added that he supported the resumption of sports without fans where possible, including baseball.

“If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great,” said Cuomo.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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