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Santa Anita has plans to resume live racing on May 15

Horses break from the gate during a race at Santa Anita Park.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Santa Anita has plans to resume live racing without spectators in mid-May, though local authorities would need to allow it.

In a letter to major stakeholders Wednesday, Santa Anita said on Thursday it would release a condition book, where planned races are open for future entries, and planned to resume racing on May 15, when the safer-at-home order expires. The move comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s remarks that he plans to relax restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 virus.

“As businesses throughout the state are preparing to gradually reopen, horse racing is unique as we cannot literally open the doors the moment orders are relaxed,” Aidan Butler, acting executive director of California racing for the Stronach Group, said in a letter to the leaders of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Trainers and Jockey’s Guild. The letter was reviewed by The Times.

“Horsemen need time to plan, which is why the tentative date is being put forth. It would be derelict of us not to give you as much notice as possible with your understanding it is still a contingency plan.”

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Santa Anita did not immediately comment on the letter or plans to reopen.

The track has been closed since March 26, after failing to convince the L.A. County Public Health Department that it was an essential business.

Santa Anita stopped racing horses last month, but hundreds of people still work, and live, in a stable area at the track under the specter of COVID-19.

Santa Anita has argued that there are far more people involved in morning training, which is allowed, than would be needed to conduct live racing. On Tuesday, workers from the track conducted a drive-by protest by the building where the L.A. County Commissioners were located.

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Butler’s letter said, “This resumption would be subject to the stringent restrictions which were included in the plan and protocols currently under consideration …”

Santa Anita has even proposed a jockey colony that would be sequestered at the track.

There is a population of around 700 workers that live on the backstretch of the track and have limited access outside the area. There have been no known COVID-19 positives among workers at the track.


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