Broward County officials told Gulfstream Park horse racing violated nonessential business ban, email says

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Gulfstream Park was informed earlier in the week that horse racing is not considered essential under Broward County’s executive order closing businesses deemed nonessential, according to a Thursday email from Assistant County Attorney Rocio Blanco Garcia that was forwarded to Hallandale Beach officials.

The order allows Gulfstream Park and other businesses to continue “minimum basic operations” during the coronavirus pandemic, the email says. Broward County does not consider horse racing to fall under that definition, subjecting Gulfstream Park’s races to closure, according to the email.

The email says a representative from Gulfstream Park reached out to “the County Administration” earlier this week regarding racing and was told racing is not considered “fundamental.” The email among county officials was forwarded to Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana.

A Gulfstream Park spokesman was asked Friday for comment on the county official’s email but did not immediately respond with a comment.

Gulfstream Park raced horses on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday despite Broward County’s executive order, which went into effect Monday. The track had no racing scheduled for Monday or Tuesday.

The county has said enforcement of the executive order is up to the cities. Hallandale Beach is where the horse track is located. Messages for the city manager and city attorney on Thursday and Friday to ask about enforcement of the county’s order were not returned.

Bill Badget, the Executive Director of Florida Racing Operations for The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park, issued a statement Wednesday, which emphasized the need to keep the horses healthy.

“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.”

The Florida Derby, one of the biggest races of the year for Gulfstream, is still scheduled for Saturday, the second-to-last day of the track’s Championship Meet. The track’s less-prestigious Spring-Summer Meet is supposed to begin April 3.

The Stronach Group has continued racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., with the permission of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, despite Newsom’s stay-at-home-order, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The county order that went into effect Monday describes essential businesses as grocery stores, doctor’s offices, gas stations, pharmacies and several other types of businesses. Another Broward County order, issued Thursday, asking people to stay home exempts workers coming or going to essential businesses.

Gulfstream Park instituted numerous new procedures and restrictions while still running races during the coronavirus pandemic, 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. The track has been running races without spectators since March 12.

On Thursday, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who was scheduled to race in Saturday’s Florida Derby, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.


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