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There were discussions held between the New York Racing Association and the New York State Gaming Commission about allowing a limited number of owners connected with each Belmont Stakes horse on the grounds Saturday, but it was ultimately determined that there would not be enough time to implement additional health and safety protocols for that to happen.
Neither owners nor fans have been allowed at Belmont Park since racing resumed June 3. NYRA has even limited the number of staff it has on hand to conduct racing on a daily basis.
“To align with health and safety protocols required at all racetracks in New York State, owners will be not permitted to attend the Belmont Stakes on Saturday,” NYRA spokesman Pat McKenna said in a statement. “NYRA engaged in productive conversations with the NYSGC on this matter but determined that continued health and safety concerns do not allow for expanded access to the Belmont Park property.”
传奇sfJack Knowlton, whose Sackatoga Stable owns Tiz the Law, the Belmont favorite, naturally expressed disappointment that neither he nor at least some of his 34 partners on the horse could attend.
“Disappointment. Obvious, major disappointment and I guess I don’t understand with the size of Belmont, outdoors, and the governor [Andrew Cuomo] continuing to extol the numbers and how good they continue to be in New York how that decision lines up with what he has put out there publicly,” Knowlton said.
“I went through this with the Florida Derby and obviously that was disappointing to be a mile away and not be able to be there,” Knowlton added. “This is probably 10 times more disappointing on a lot of levels. One, it’s a Triple Crown race. It’s the first time the Belmont has been the first one. We have the favorite in the race, and we potentially could get redemption.”
传奇sfKnowlton was referring to the fact that in 2003 Sackatoga owned Funny Cide, who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to finish third in the Belmont.
传奇sfNew York was the hardest hit state by the coronavirus, with 383,944 cases and 24,579 deaths through Sunday, according to the state’s health department website. Nassau County, where Belmont Park is located, has had 41,240 cases and 2,167 deaths.
However, New York has made significant strides in reducing the spread of the virus and now has one of the lowest rates of new cases on a daily basis. Cuomo has loosened some restrictions, even allowing outdoor, socially-distanced graduation ceremonies with as many as 150 people starting June 26.
传奇sfThe coronavirus forced the shutdown of racing in New York for 80 days before it resumed on June 3.
传奇sfKnowlton, who lives in the Saratoga area, said he and many of his partners will have a watch party at Pennell’s, an Italian restaurant in Saratoga owned by Bruce Cerone, a partner in Sackatoga and Tiz the Law.
“We will try to socially distance if we have a reason to jump around and hug each other come 5:45,” Knowlton said.
传奇sfPost time for the Belmont Stakes is 5:42 p.m.