Saratoga County

Saratoga County may back racing without fans amid COVID-19

Supervisors feel that racing of some kind will have economic benefits
Horses run around the grandstand turn at Saratoga Race Course in this file photo
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Horses run around the grandstand turn at Saratoga Race Course in this file photo

Categories: News, Saratoga County

SARATOGA COUNTY — Saratoga County supervisors are poised to back the idea of having thoroughbred horse racing at Saratoga Race Course this summer without fans, if crowding people into the stands is prohibited as part of the state’s efforts to control coronavirus.

The county’s Law and Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution for the county to back efforts by state Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, to encourage Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to allow racing without fans at Saratoga, as a better alternative than having no racing at all this year.

The committee approval will put the matter before the full Board of Supervisors at a meeting on Tuesday. The county’s Racing Committee previously recommended the county take the position.

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The idea of racing without fans in attendance has growing support locally, as it has become clearer that Cuomo is unlikely to allow any activities this summer that could bring large numbers of people together, or will attract people from distant places — as Saratoga Race Course has always done.

Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs city officials are already calculating that much of this year’s tourism season will be lost, but they believe that having racing at the track — even without fans — would provide some economic support for the city’s businesses, while also supporting the farms and agricultural enterprises that are tied to breeding, raising and caring for race horses.

Woerner has said she thinks racing should be treated differently from concert venues and amusement parks.

“I would like to stress that horse racing is unique and needs to be approached differently than concerts and sporting events,” she said last month. “We need to move forward planning to hold this year’s race meet. Maintaining the schedules and operations of the dozens of different sectors of agriculture including foaling farms, stables, hay farms, equine veterinarians and tack shops all necessary to making a racing season possible.”

The New York Racing Association has said it wants to hold the Saratoga meet that is scheduled to start July 16, and believes it can be done safely without fans, if necessary.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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