by Pat McKenna
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced COVID-19 health and safety protocols for jockeys during the 27-day Belmont Park fall meet, which will open on Friday, September 18 and run through Sunday, November 1.
The Belmont Park fall meet will be highlighted by 22 graded stakes, featuring seven Grade 1 events and seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers to the two-day Breeders' Cup 2020 World Championships to be held November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course.
In order to mitigate risk and reduce the spread of COVID-19, Belmont Park will be closed to out-of-town jockeys until further notice. However, members of the regular NYRA jockey colony who travel to ride at any other racetrack during the Belmont Park fall meet will be required to provide two negative COVID-19 tests taken within a 5-day window in order to return to ride at Belmont. Jockeys traveling out of state who have completed the required testing will then be physically isolated in the jockey quarters for three additional calendar days.
For example, if a NYRA jockey travels out of New York to compete on a Saturday then that jockey should be tested upon return to New York on Sunday and tested again on Thursday. Should both tests be returned negative then the jockey will be allowed to ride races at Belmont beginning Friday and will be provided an isolated area on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
NYRA jockeys who have traveled outside of New York state to compete at other racetracks beginning the week of August 31 will also be required to provide two negative COVID-19 tests taken within the 5-day window preceding that jockey's first mount at Belmont Park.
Jockeys who have remained in New York and not competed at other tracks following the conclusion of the summer meet on September 7 will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the 7-day window preceding that jockey's first mount at Belmont Park.
All testing must be performed in New York state.
Condition Book 1 for the fall meet currently lists 17 active jockeys and two apprentice riders who will be designated members of the NYRA jockey colony. Jockeys and agents interested in being included in the NYRA jockey colony may contact NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Martin Panza for consideration by September 18.
In addition to race day safety protocols which include standard health screening and temperature checks, the jockey quarters at Belmont Park have been substantially altered to provide maximum social distancing and reduce density. All areas accessed by jockeys during the regular course of a race day are closed to outside personnel, including credentialed media, and are cleaned and disinfected throughout the day.
Jockeys are not permitted access to the barn area. In order to work a horse in the morning, the jockey must meet the horse in the paddock and may then proceed to the main track.
Jockey agents must produce a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain access to the barn area. Races will continue to be drawn via Zoom.
All valets must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken anytime after September 13 in order to access the jockey quarters on opening day, September 18. Valets working in in the jockey quarters are not permitted in the barn area.
The 2020 Belmont Park fall meet will begin on Friday, September 18 and run through Sunday, November 1. Following opening weekend at Belmont, live racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, when live racing will be offered on Monday, October 12 and will resume on Friday, October 16.
America's Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Belmont Park fall meet with coverage to air on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.