With 600 horses on site, safety 'priority one' at Keeneland

With 600 horses on site, safety 'priority one' at Keeneland
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Ten days after the cancellation of Keeneland's Spring Meet, there are still more than 600 horses on the grounds in Lexington, Ky., among them the champion filly Monomoy Girl, who recorded her first local work there Thursday.

Track officials made a commitment to horsemen last week when announcing that, due to complications of the coronavirus pandemic, they were calling off the April 2-24 meet while assuring that horses and those tending to them would continue to have access to the facility.

“We have a responsibility to take care of the folks who work at our facility, not only our employees, but also those horsemen and horsewomen who work on the backside,” said Bob Elliston, vice president of racing and sales. “We’ve got to provide a safe environment for them as well as to make sure the horses are taken care of. Ensuring there is a safe and healthy environment for the workers so they are capable of taking care of the horses is priority one.” There were no changes implemented to the morning training hours or routines, allowing for business as usual for the horses in their daily exercise. RELATED: Keeneland looks to recoup lost race dates As for track workers, screening checkpoints were set up at two entrance gates to the grounds and the Rice Road barn entrance to monitor those seeking access to Keeneland. Both require a temperature check. Only those below 100.5 degrees and showing no symptoms of COVID-19 are granted access. Persons permitted to enter receive an armband granting access for only that day. Keeneland stopped accepting new horses to the barn area immediately upon the calling off of the meet. Other precautions invoked by the track include the cancellation of its 2-year-olds in training sale, plus the closure of the general office and the Keeneland Library. All tours were discontinued, and the retail shop was shuttered. Elliston said horsemen are not being charged stall rent, and that he is open to any suggestions those horsemen may have to provide the best overall care in a trying time. “We all have to work together. We all have to help the horsemen and the people taking care of the horses by allowing them to stay where they are,” Elliston said. Meanwhile, a number of horsemen who would have normally shifted their strings to Keeneland after winter meets finishing up appear to have Churchill Downs as a stabling option beginning April 14, when its backstretch and Trackside training center are scheduled to open.

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