Golden Gate Fields extends closure after significant spike in coronavirus cases

Horse racing continues at Golden Gate Fields with no fans in attendance because of coronavirus concerns.
Horse racing continues at Golden Gate Fields with no fans in attendance because of coronavirus concerns on March 19.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Golden Gate Fields is staying closed for at least two more weeks after a significant spike of the novel coronavirus on the backstretch of the Northern California horse racing track. The facility closed on Nov. 13 to racing after there were 24 confirmed cases for COVID-19. The track had hoped to reopen on Thursday but has now pushed back the date to no earlier than Dec. 3.

The current number of infected workers is around 100 according to two people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly. About 500 people have been tested with a positivity rate of around 30%, which if consistent with pending tests, could swell the number with the coronavirus to about 150. At least a fifth of the tests are outstanding with more results expected on Thursday.

Neither the track nor its parent company, The Stronach Group, said how many current cases are tied to the facility and directed inquiries to the Berkeley Public Health Department. A spokesman for the City of Berkeley said the city does not release the number of cases at any specific location.

Most of those infected are asymptomatic and they are in varying stages of quarantine.


Golden Gate Fields in Northern California suspended live racing operations for at least a week because of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

“It is still undecided whether persons tested positive will be asked to leave the track or be segregated at Golden Gate Fields,” according to an alert sent to members of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. In outbreaks at Santa Anita, like Golden Gate owned by the Stronach Group, workers were generally sent to hotels to quarantine.

Golden Gate Fields said in a news release that it was cooperating with the Berkeley Public Health Department in managing the outbreak. The backside of the track, where the horses and workers are housed, is in Berkeley, while the frontside, where the public attends and watches the races, is in Albany.

This will take the track to 11 cancelled performances this meeting because of the coronavirus. It has not announced a plan to make up the days or if it will add races to existing programs, should racing resume. The track is scheduled to close its current meeting on Dec. 13. The California Horse Racing Board meets by teleconference on Thursday and will discuss the allocation of next year’s racing dates in Northern California.

About 1,300 horses are stabled at Golden Gate. Training remains open at the track as horses have to exercise several days a week regardless if they are running in any races. Horses that are sent to Del Mar must have arrangements with a Del Mar-based trainer to care for the horse when arriving at the track. No Golden Gate-based staff can accompany a horse on the grounds. These procedures have been in place since Nov. 5.