FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Racing continued at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday, with the horse track owners citing the need to care for the horses, and Hallandale Beach city officials exploring whether the park’s activities violate Broward County’s executive order to close nonessential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bill Badget, the Executive Director of Florida Racing Operations for The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park, said in a statement Wednesday the track did not threaten legal action against Hallandale Beach. On Tuesday, Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana told the Sun Sentinel that Gulfstream was threatening the city with legal action if it tried to shut down the track.
“Our priority during these challenging times is the health and well-being of our employees and the horses we all love and care for,” Badget’s statement read. “Racehorses are living, breathing animals that require constant supervision and care. It would be detrimental to their health, safety and welfare to stand in their stalls without daily exercise. There are over 3,200 horses that call Gulfstream Park home and our training and racing is being conducted by essential personnel only who are operating under stringent measures for protection that are aligned with the best guidance from health and governmental authorities. We value our relationship with the City of Hallandale and any suggestion of legal action during this time is false.
“On March 12, we voluntarily closed our venues to the public and we will continue to work with all stakeholders including city, county and state officials to ensure that we are in full compliance with all requirements for social distancing.”
The county order describes essential businesses as grocery stores, doctor’s offices, gas stations, pharmacies and several other types of businesses. There was no scheduled racing at the park Monday or Tuesday, but racing resumed 1 p.m. on Wednesday as originally scheduled. No spectators have been allowed at Gulfstream Park since it close to the public March 12. One of the top races of the season, the Florida Derby, is still scheduled for Saturday, also without spectators.
Broward County Assistant to the County Administrator Alphonso Jefferson Jr. said in an email to Hallandale Beach Assistant City Manager Keven Klopp and others that Gulfstream Park was permitted “to perform Minimum Basic Operations (those activities necessary to preserve value of investment — so the horses will need to be taken care of, of course — process payroll and benefits and facilitate remote work). CDC guidelines should be followed at all times.”
Javellana said the park told the city’s staff that at least 20 people are needed to run races at the park, which she said exceeds the limit in the Broward County emergency order and is more than the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend.
Javellana said it’s a second-degree misdemeanor to violate the Broward County order, though she does not know who would be charged in this situation.
“I wouldn’t know who would be charged in that situation: if it would be the person in charge, the manager. I really don’t think it would be individual employees,” Javellana said. “That’s why we really want to avoid that type of situation. So we want them to just shut down without us having to really enforce it and really just listen to the county order.”
Gulfstream Park has instituted several new policies to protect the health of employees at the track, including reducing access to the track, grandstand and saddling paddock, restricting the number of personnel at the track, barring spectators from races, prohibiting contact between jockeys, disinfecting starting gates between races and more.
Gulfstream’s Championship Meet wraps up Sunday. Next on the schedule would be the Spring-Summer Meet, which begins April 3.
The Stronach Group has continued racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, with the permission of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, despite Newsom’s stay-at-home-order, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office did not respond to emails asking if the governor’s office had been in touch with either the city or Gulfstream Park.
At the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York, the New York Racing Association suspended horse racing at the track on Thursday after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the New York Times.
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