Oklahoma: Racing During A Pandemic.
Updated: May 6
Code West has his foals hitting the ground, mares are being bred and the farm is busy day and night. But, the COVID-19 issues lurk the media, and all the internet search engines as it is the first thing that pops up. Horse racing and breeding falls under the agriculture law that the people caring for the animals can still tend to their stock. Luckily the farm is so large, it is easy for people to practice social distancing as requested by our governor, Kevin Stitt and the CDC.
The foals we see here, will spend at least a year and a half on the property before going to be trained & broke in the fall of their yearling year. Hopefully, the pandemic we are currently facing will be behind us and racing can overcome the effects of 2020. But there is a lot of unanswered questions to our future.
What will this virus do to the horse racing community? Racing has halted in many states with only a few tracks being able to run. Will Rogers Downs, which is still able to race, is located in Claremore, OK. A very rural area that isn’t highly populated. That is a good thing.
The horsemen in Oklahoma aren’t as privileged with high dollar clients, that can stay a float if they are forced to play the waiting game with racing. In Oklahoma many trainers own and breed their own. Feed bills add up and the staff needs to be paid. Workers comp still needs to be paid.
Horsemen are having to pinch pennies and do a lot of the work themselves just to make something on their business. The purse money generated through racing, is their only glimmer of hope. So if racing was to halt in Oklahoma, it would be devastating to the average local horseman. And if this is a as serious a virus as portrayed by the media and the
internet, we are doing a great risk to our employees and horseman. Unless, they are educated and given instructions (English & Spanish) on how to protect themselves from the virus.
So, I hope that the communities within each track’s backstretch will help the people that live on the track. That these employees are taught that their hygiene should be stepped up, even though they are shoveling horse manure day in and day out.
Trainer responsibility is a blanket of things that they are to take the brunt of. This is another one of those times. Make sure your staff is educated. Tell them, this is serious and you are just looking out for their well being. Find masks for your help. Supply gloves for them. Tell the importance of social distancing and if they win a race, it is ok to stand a part in the winners circle. No winning hugs or slapping the jockey on the back. We just have to be smart if we are going to continue to try to keep racing alive with the ongoing pandemic.
Oklahoma races three meets for Thoroughbreds. Will Rogers Downs, which is going on presently, Fair Meadows which is also a Tulsa area track, and the most prestigious meet is the Remington Park meet which, God willing will run starting in late August.