Only one professional sport remains active in New York City during the coronavirus crisis: thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. But no fans can watch the horses run there.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA), which operates the track, banned spectators last week after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency order barring public gatherings of more than 500 people. Jockeys, trainers, horsemen, outriders and other essential staff remain active at Aqueduct for the races broadcast on the internet, where fans can wager without leaving home.
But one animal rights group, which has advocated for Central Park horse carriages to be outlawed, now wants all horse racing in New York state to stop running.
NYCLASS Executive Director Edita Birnkrant charged that racetracks across the state that are still running were putting “profits over the safety of people, and the welfare of the industry already overworked and inadequately cared for racehorses.”
“Closing their doors to spectators isn’t enough at a time when schools, restaurants, gyms and retail stores across the state are closing for the sake of protecting New Yorkers,” Birnkrant said. “Moreover, tracks require hundreds if not thousands of staff members to operate – many of whom travel from out of state – making it extremely difficult for employees to practice responsible social distancing.”
Birnkrant said that Cuomo should suspend the licenses of any gaming outfit that does not voluntarily suspend their operations immediately.
In announcing its ban on spectators at Aqueduct last Thursday, NYRA President and CEO David O’Rourke said that the association would “continue to actively monitor this evolving situation and make further adjustments as necessary in consultation and collaboration with the New York State Gaming Commission.”
“We believe that the most prudent decision to protect the health and well-being of all involved in our sport is to conduct upcoming race dates without attendees,” O’Rourke said on March 12.
The NYRA further indicated it would follow the best practices as established by the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. The latter agency recommended that public gatherings of more than 10 be suspended for up to two months.
amNewYork Metro reached out to the NYRA for comment and is awaiting a response.
Cuomo’s order had forced Resorts World to close on Monday its two New York casinos: Resorts World Catskills in upstate Monticello, and Resorts World New York City — located adjacent to Aqueduct Racetrack.
Live racing is currently set to resume at Aqueduct on Friday, March 20.