Thursday, 02 April 2020 12:33

Aqueduct Meet Cancelled; Racetrack Transformed into Temporary Hospital

While their offices are closed, members of the NY Race Track Chaplaincy are out in the field picking up donations of food, conducting food distributions, delivering food to quarantined individuals, and checking on the welfare of the backstretch community. Photo: NYRTC. While their offices are closed, members of the NY Race Track Chaplaincy are out in the field picking up donations of food, conducting food distributions, delivering food to quarantined individuals, and checking on the welfare of the backstretch community. Photo: NYRTC.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The circumstances of the Saratoga racing meet remain status quo as of this week, with the season scheduled to run July 16 – Sept. 7. 

The Aqueduct winter and spring meets meanwhile have been cancelled. Aqueduct Racetrack will serve as a temporary hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic and will serve the borough of Queens - where the racetrack is located – as a 1,000-plus patient overflow facility.  Aqueduct is the only racetrack in New York City, occupying 210 acres in South Ozone Park.

“We stand ready to assist in any way we can,” New York Racing Association CEO and President Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “Aqueduct Racetrack will serve as a safe haven for those recovering from this virus. We recognize that we all must work together as a community to meet this challenge and emerge stronger for it.” 

The Big A winter meet was slated to run through March 29 with the 13-day spring meet scheduled from April 2 through April 19. The 51-day Belmont spring/summer meet featuring 58 total stakes races worth $18.65 million is slated to run April 24 through July 1.

On March 30, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended by two weeks the length of his directive putting New York State on “pause” – directing the state nonessential workforce to continue to work from home through April 15.   

The NY Race Track Chaplaincy meanwhile continues to work in partnership with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST). The recently formed NYRA Preparedness and Response Plan Committee, which is comprised of key NYRA staff members as well as representatives from NYTHA, BEST, and the NY Chaplaincy, is monitoring and assessing developments regarding the coronavirus.

NYRA-operated racetracks have been used in prior emergency situations, including in 2012 when NYRA donated the use of the Aqueduct parking lot to the American Red Cross to operate a mobile feeding kitchen and relief supplies staging area in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. In 2001, Belmont Park served as one of the staging areas for emergency vehicles and personnel in the days following 9/11.

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