Horse racing will continue on without fans; Stronach clarifies policy on indicted trainers

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St. Paddy’s Day 2015 at Laurel Park

While most professional sports leagues have either suspended their seasons or cancelled games and tournaments due to the threat of coronavirus, horse racing is continuing on in Maryland–albeit without fans able to attend at the track.

Laurel Park announced on Thursday that racing would resume today–in fact, they’re already through six races of eight on the card. Saturday’s schedule features four stakes races with $100,000 purses, including the Private Terms Stakes for 3-year-olds and and Beyond the Wire for 3-year-old fillies.

The Maryland Jockey Club said its eight off-track betting locations, including the ones at the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and MGM National Harbor, will remain open. (Baltimore Fishbowl confirmed that, as of 3:21 p.m., both casinos remain open and are operating as normal.)

Laurel Park is just one of of a number of tracks that are continuing the race but without spectators, joining California, Florida, Kentucky, New York and Arkansas.

Fans are encouraged to stream the races on, or Pimlico Race Course and Rosecroft Raceway are also closed to the public.

Also on Thursday, the Stronach Group, owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, clarified its policy on the horses who were under the care of thoroughbred trainers recently indicted in a drug-doping scheme–the two most prominent being Jason Servis or Jorge Navarro.

Those horses will have to undergo a mandatory stand-down of at least 60 days, during which time they will not be permitted to race.

“Our goal is to keep these horses safe and from competing if there is any possibility that they may have performance-enhancing drugs in their system,” Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinarian for the Stronach Group, said in a statement. “This is being done not only to first and foremost protect the horses, but also to protect the majority of the trainers and owners who are doing things properly. We are disgusted by the conduct set out in the indictments. It is extremely important to honor our commitment to always put the health and safety of the horse first.”

The horses have been placed on the Official Veterinarian’s List. To be removed, they must submit to a hair test after 30 days and have it come back clean. After 60 days, the horse can resume taking normal medication and must pass a blood and urine test.

Ordinarily, only a blood test is required to be removed from the list, Stronach said.

Earlier this week, Stronach barred the indicted trainers from racing their horses at the company’s tracks, which also include Gulfstream Park in Florida, and Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in California.

Servis and Navarro were allegedly part of a group of more than two dozen trainers, veterinarians and drug distributors who used “adulterated or misbranded drugs” to dope horses, masking pain that could potentially lead to fatal injuries, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said on Monday.

Lawyers for both trainers told The New York Times that Servis and Navarro intend to plead not guilty.

Brandon Weigel

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