Coronavirus: Fair Grounds makes Louisiana Derby day its last race card

Coronavirus: Fair Grounds makes Louisiana Derby day its last race card
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

In a text message sent to trainers Saturday, Fair Grounds racing officials announced that this afternoon's Louisiana Derby (G2) card will be the New Orleans track's final program of the season, a trainer confirmed with Horse Racing Nation.

Racing was previously scheduled to run through March 29 amid the COVID-19 pandemic with the track closed to all but essential personnel.

In a statement released after racing concluded Saturday, Fair Grounds said the decision to cease raising was made in "accordance with the 'stay-home' order issued by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, following public health concerns in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic."

"We regret any inconvenience this announcement may have caused our rans fans and will continue to coordinate closely with federal, state and local authorities to minimize exposure risk for those on our property," the statement reads.

It will be a hit to business, but horsemen will continue to be able to stable at Fair Grounds thanks to an emergency order passed Friday by the Louisiana Racing Commission. The order, passed after trainers were told to leave Evangeline Downs barn area, requires tracks to...

1. Allow horsemen and horses to shelter in place without threat of eviction;

2. Allow adequate access to their tracks and exercise facilities at least every other day to ensure the wellbeing of the horses;

3. Allow the customary movement of horsemen and horses in accordance with meet and training schedules, regardless of whether or not meets are being conducted;

4. And implement the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s recommendations in response to COVID-19.

"Fair Grounds Race Course remains focused on the safety of members of the backside community who are vital to ensuring the care of the horses," the track's statement reads. "In compliance with the Louisiana Racing Commission’s emergency order, we are committed to facilitating their safe and customary movement to tracks outside of New Orleans."

It's a major unknown facing horsemen where to go at the end of their current meets. Tracks have largely moved to restrict incoming horses to prevent the spread of coronavirus, while Aqueduct in New York has suspended racing, a governor's order has Laurel Park shut down and Keeneland has canceled its meet.

Many Fair Grounds horsemen relocate to Churchill Downs in the spring. The Kentucky track's barn area and training center, Trackside, are scheduled to open March 31.

The Fair Grounds shutdown may also hamper jockeys. On Friday, Florent Geroux shared a letter stating that Oaklawn Park will not accept riders coming from Fair Grounds except for mounts on stakes days.

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