Churchill Downs began accepting horses on the grounds Monday morning for the Louisville, Ky., track’s abbreviated Spring Meet, and trainers reported that the process was going smoothly.
The track’s staggered schedule began with shippers from Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
“What I’ve witnessed today, since we got here early today til this morning, has been an extremely thorough as well as efficient way of managing what basically is a community of the population of a racetrack,” said trainer Tom Amoss.
About 175 horses were scheduled to be on the grounds by the end of the day, according to a Churchill Downs news release. Some 300 horses will ship to Churchill from Fair Grounds in the next two days.
Before arriving at Churchill Downs, about 295 COVID-19 tests were administered to all stable employees from Fair Grounds, and additional 580 tests were completed at Churchill.
Horses stabled in Florida are scheduled to arrive from Thursday through Saturday, followed by those from Arkansas beginning Sunday. Horses that have been stabled elsewhere in Kentucky and around the country may arrive starting on May 20.
“The one thing that’s occurring that I’ve experienced today and recognize I’m going to experience throughout the meet here, is that everything’s going to take a little bit longer,” said Amoss, who is shipping in 32 horses. “The days of driving into the stable gate, flashing your badge and going to your barn – those are gone.
"We hear in so many industries the talk of the new normal. The new normal at Churchill Downs is going to require you to take a little extra time in everything that you do, particularly coming into the stable gate, where your temperature is taken, you have to be an essential employee, you’ve got to get a wristband for that day. …
“This is not only necessary and welcomed, but it’s the only way that we’re going to get back to racing here,” Amoss continued. “I’ve seen a tremendous amount of patience by everybody, compared to what we used to do. There was a group of us at the stable gate – by a group of us, I mean a group of cars waiting to get in – and it took about 30 minutes. But I for one am not complaining. I want to race, and I understand that there are going to be some protocols in place to race, and that’s simply one of them.”
Some live action at Churchill Downs around lunch time Monday.... all from outside the fences pic.twitter.com/qjnHt2oiEn— holly (@kyholmarie) May 11, 2020
Al Stall, who’s bringing in 20 horses, said the process had gone “very smoothly, very organized. Churchill Downs is above and beyond the call of duty. Every barn has a sanitizing station on it, everyone’s got masks.”
Joe Sharp was awaiting the arrival of 36 horses at Trackside, Churchill Downs’ satellite training operation.
“So far, everybody’s been really helpful with scheduling," he said. "…The nice thing is, everybody that’s enforcing the policies and making sure everything goes as planned are all people that we’ve worked together for several years. So everybody has a pretty good relationship.”
Sharp said Fair Grounds officials had been very supportive of trainers as well.
“We owe them a lot. … They all went above and beyond as far as getting temps checked the last couple of weeks, making sure we had training over the last month, just basically keeping their doors open until we were able to get to Churchill. They definitely deserve a lot of credit. I don’t know what any of us would have done without that.”
Churchill Downs will begin racing Saturday and Sunday this week, then continue through June 27 on a Thursday through Sunday schedule. First post time each day is 1 p.m. ET as business continues behind closed doors to the public.