Golden Gate Fields suspends live racing operations after coronavirus outbreak

A horse race with no fans is pictured March 19, 2020, at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.
A race with no fans is pictured March 19 at Golden Gate Fields. There have been 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the backstretch of the Northern California track, and live racing has been suspended.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Golden Gate Fields has suspended live racing operations for at least a week because of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The announcement came shortly before racing was to start Friday after there have been 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the backstretch of the Northern California horse racing track.

The move was made after talking with the City of Berkeley Public Health Division, which oversees the location of the track. The 24 cases in the stable area have occurred since Oct. 30. All positive cases are overseen by the BPHD, and those infected are not allowed to return to the track until given clearance.

The facility will be given a thorough cleaning, and all front and backside employees will be given COVID-19 tests. The results will be given to the BPHD. While Golden Gate says it plans to reopen Nov. 20, it will seek health department approval before that can happen.


Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, fresh off his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday, has been retired from racing by his owners.

The track will be open for daily exercise and training for the 1,300 horses housed there. Even if there is no racing, horses have to exercise almost daily, as has been the case at every track that has been closed temporarily because of the coronavirus.

Golden Gate is owned by the Stronach Group, which also owns Santa Anita and tracks in Florida and Maryland. TSG has been trying to rebrand its racing under the name 1/ST. The ownership company was rocked last year by an unusually high number of horse fatalities at Santa Anita, and the California Horse Racing Board asked it to shut down, which it refused to do. In addition, there was a contentious lawsuit between founder Frank Stronach and his daughter, Belinda Stronach, who now runs the company. The suit was settled.

In Santa Anita’s last meeting, which ran five weeks, it recorded no deaths either racing or training. Santa Anita plans to reopen Dec. 26.