With speculation continuing over if and how a Saratoga Race Course meet will happen this summer, Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County lost another big horse racing event to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has canceled the 2020 Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the Museum Ball because of ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hall of Fame ceremony was scheduled for Friday, Aug. 7. This year’s induction class — trainer Mark Casse, jockey Darrel McHargue, horses Wise Dan and Tom Bowling, and Pillars of the Turf Alice Headley Chandler, Keene Daingerfield, Jr., and George D. Widener, Jr. — will be inducted in the traditional manner alongside the class of 2021 next August.
"We are incredibly disappointed we won’t be able to have these time-honored special events this summer, but the health concerns we are facing right now take precedence," NMRHOF president John Hendrickson said in a release. "The Hall of Fame ceremony is an experience we want to be able to share with the fans. With racing at Saratoga this summer likely to take place without spectators, we believe it is in the best interests of everyone involved and for the integrity of the even to postpone the ceremony for a year."
In April, Fasig-Tipton announced that its annual Saratoga yearling auctions would not take place, and the horses pointed toward those sales would be offered during an expanded "2020 Selected Yearlings Showcase in Lexington, Kentucky, Sept. 9-10.
The Saratoga selected yearlings sale would have taken place Aug. 3-4, followed by a New York-bred sale on Aug. 9-10.
The prospect of a Saratoga Race Course meet improved last weekend, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that racing at all venues in New York could resume live racing as of June 1, and the New York Racing Association is scheduled to start up again on June 3 at Belmont Park.
A strong possibility still exists that, if NYRA does bring its circuit to Saratoga, it would do so without allowing fans on the grounds. The Saratoga meet is scheduled to open on July 16.
The Hall of Fame ceremony, held at Fasig-Tipton's Humphrey S. Finney sales pavilion on East Avenue two blocks from the track, typically draws a packed house for its induction ceremony.
"The 2020 inductees will be honored together with the class of 2021 next summer in what will be a truly special ceremony," Hendrickson said. "Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is the most prestigious honor in the sport of thoroughbred racing and we will make sure this year’s class is properly recognized for the incredible mark they have made on the game."
The 44th Annual Museum Ball, which was scheduled for Aug. 14, is traditionally one of the highlights of the Saratoga summer social season. That event will also return to the calendar in 2021.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame remains closed to the public.
The Museum is currently under construction, as work has resumed this week on the new Hall of Fame Education Experience.
"We look forward to completing our new Hall of Fame Education Experience as soon as we are given the green light to move forward by the state," Hendrickson said. "The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will be back better than ever. We can’t wait to share with everyone all the work we have done to make our institution something everyone in the sport can be proud of. We look forward to welcoming everyone as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so."
The Museum will also unveil a new website this summer. The current site at www.racingmuseum.org is under development in partnership with The Jockey Club, but visitors are still able to access essential information there.