LOS ANGELES -- One of the first steps in sports returning to Southern California came Wednesday when Santa Anita was given permission to resume live horse racing on Friday. The track has been closed to live racing since March 27 when the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health closed the track for racing, but allowed morning training.
The remainder of the meeting, which concludes on June 21, will likely be held without spectators and anyone but essential personnel. The track has implemented protocols where jockeys will receive daily health checks and will be housed on the track property. Trainers and backstretch workers will also be getting daily temperature checks. About 750 workers live on the backstretch of the track.
Nearly all employees will be required to wear face masks. Jockeys, when riding horses, generally are within social distance guidelines when racing and certainly during all pre- and post-race activities. The winner's circle will also be shut down during this period.
Owners and other nonessential people will be barred from the track. In addition, track-employed grooms will take control of the horses as race time approaches in order to reduce the number of people in the process. Normally, every horse is controlled by grooms for each individual trainer.
"We are very grateful for the open and continuous communication with both the health department and Supervisor Kathryn Barger's office," said Aidan Butler, executive director for California racing for the Stronach Group, said in a statement.
Golden Gate Fields, owned by the Stronach Group, was allowed to resume racing on Thursday by order of the Alameda County Public Heath Department. Los Alamitos, in Orange County, has been allowed to continue spectator-less racing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Butler told the Los Angeles Times that the track would likely just run three days a week, except for Memorial Day weekend when it would add Monday, for the remainder of the meeting.
In anticipation of racing, the track drew entries on Tuesday. There are 94 horses eligible to run on Friday's nine-race card. No race has fewer than nine horses. Prior to the shutdown, it was not unusual to see five or six horses in a race.
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