Albany

Cuomo says Saratoga Race Course likely closed to public this year over COVID-19

Summer destination cannot be allowed to exist without full statewide control of COVID-19, governor explains
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Saratoga in 2019
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Saratoga in 2019

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Sports

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday there’s virtually no chance that Saratoga Race Course can open to the public this summer.

“You can’t open an attraction that could bring people from across the state,” he said during his daily briefing.

There are a handful of large events that would become attractive nuisances, the governor said, adding that he was misusing this legal term but advisedly so.

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The Saratoga racing meet and the New York State Fair are the two examples Cuomo cited. They drew 1.06 million and 1.33 million visitors, respectively, in 2019.

These large, weeks-long events become destinations, and that can happen only as part of a statewide reopening coordinated with neighboring states, he said.

If Saratoga Race Course opened in advance of the general reopening of society, it would draw its greatest crowds ever, Cuomo added, because people still would have cabin fever and be looking for something — anything — to get out and do.

Tens of thousands of people crowd Saratoga Race Course on good weather days and big race days — exactly the scenario Cuomo has moved to prevent by shutting down much of the state’s economy and most societal interaction.

“Density is not our friend,” the governor said.

Also: Could there be racing at Saratoga without fans? Continuing COVID-19 concerns have NYRA considering it, April 29, 2020

There is almost certainly not enough time to get everything in order for safe operation of the Race Course this summer, he added.

Cuomo was not asked and did not say if the racing could go on in Saratoga with empty stands. The New York Racing Association thinks it can make a profit doing this. But even without spectators, there would still be hundreds of officials, horse trainers, support staff and track employees present for a full-scale racing meet.

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