Gulfstream Park plans to continue racing Wednesday and hold Saturday’s Florida Derby as scheduled, despite Broward County’s ban on nonessential business and the city of Hallandale Beach asking the horse racing track to shut down and postpone the Derby, Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana told the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday.
Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, Javellana said the track has threatened legal action against the city if it tried to prevent racing.
“They need to stop the racing,” Javellana said. “We can’t just bend to their will just because they say they’re going to sue us or (take) whatever legal action They’re a powerful entity, but we can’t just allow that to go on. They’re blatantly violating the Broward County order.”
Gulfstream Park closed its restaurants and casino and banned spectators voluntarily before the county order went into effect Monday morning, Javellana said. The county order describes essential businesses as grocery stores, doctor’s offices, gas stations, pharmacies and several other types of businesses. But the park is planning to continue horse races despite the city asking them to postpone the races due to the coronavirus pandemic. There was no scheduled racing at the park Monday or Tuesday, and post time was listed on their website as 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Gulfstream Park spokesman David Joseph could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, but Monday afternoon sent the Sun Sentinel an email that read: “Right now, we’re scheduled to run.”
Javellana said the city is asking Broward County for clarification on the order and is hoping for an answer by Wednesday, but she said the county said it was up to the city and the Hallandale Beach Police Department to enforce the order.
“Right now, our city staff is communicating with (the county) because we really just want to have clarification from the county order just to have legal standing in the courts if it does come to that — that they really do have to close,” Javellana said. “And they’re not mentioned in any of the exemptions. We want to have it in a clear order from the county that says horse racing is not an exempted business.”
Javellana said she asked Florida House of Representatives member Dan Daley about the situation, as well, and she said he told her that the Florida Department Business and Professional Regulation was waiving requirements for specific numbers of race days.
“There is literally no other reason for them to be racing other than keeping horse people happy, who are going to be watching and betting online, I assume,” Javellana said.
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’s Championship Meet wraps up Sunday. Next on the schedule would be the Spring-Summer Meet, which begins April 3.
The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park, 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 immediately respond to an email 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.
“I just really feel for the jockeys, the cameramen, the different staff that go into putting together this operation who are going to have to come home, who probably don’t want to go into work,” Javellana said. “It’s just not the ideal situation, and they’re not an essential business. I’m sorry to say but the Derby does not have to go on.
“The Olympics are being postponed. The horses can wait.”
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