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Santa Anita joins list of postponed Kentucky Derby preps

Horses run in the fourth race at Santa Anita Park in front of empty stands, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Arcadia, Calif. While most of the sports world is idled by the coronavirus pandemic, horse racing runs on. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Horses run in the fourth race at Santa Anita Park in front of empty stands, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Arcadia, Calif. While most of the sports world is idled by the coronavirus pandemic, horse racing runs on. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
By Beth Harris Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – Another Kentucky Derby prep is off – for now.

The Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby, was to be run Saturday. However, it will be postponed until later in the season while Santa Anita remains closed for live racing during the coronavirus pandemic on orders of the Los Angeles County Health Department.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 at the track, officials said Tuesday. It has been closed to the public and only essential personnel have been allowed since March 12. The winter-spring meet is set to end in mid-June.

Track officials say they are continuing to have “constructive” talks with the health department and county Supervisor Kathryn Barger and her staff about the possibility of resuming live racing. Track officials say they submitted a proposal recently which they believe responds to the health department’s requests.

“We have yet to receive a satisfactory response,” the track said in a statement.

Training hours are being allowed at Santa Anita, where over 1,700 horses are stabled at the Arcadia track. Most of the 750 stable workers live on-site and officials say they are operating under stringent measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Santa Anita officials point out that other tracks nationwide are having live racing, including Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Oaklawn in Arkansas.

“They are running for exactly the same reasons that Santa Anita is trying to communicate to LA County officials – because the consequences of closing down the economic engine that fuels the community makes the risks and potential issues significantly worse when racing is closed and only training allowed,” track officials said.

The Santa Anita Derby is the latest in a string of Kentucky Derby preps to be postponed or canceled. The Kentucky Derby itself has been pushed back from May 2 to Sept. 5. Of the major preps, only the Louisiana and Florida derbies have been run since mid-March.

The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Kentucky also were to be run this weekend. Aqueduct has canceled live racing and is being used as a temporary hospital site in hard-hit New York. Keeneland canceled its spring meet.

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