New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: SCOTT HEINS / GETTY IMAGES
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: SCOTT HEINS / GETTY IMAGES

While SA remains in the dark regarding any racing resumption, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the state will allow meetings behind closed doors from June 1.

New York Racing Authority (NYRA) chair Dave O’Rourke said: “The NYRA and the New York racing community are thankful for governor Cuomo’s steady leadership throughout this public health crisis and we applaud his decision to authorise the resumption of racing.

“This is a reasoned and responsible decision that will enable horse racing to resume in a way that prioritises health and safety while recognising that the NYRA is the cornerstone of an industry responsible for 19,000 jobs and the $3bn in annual economic impact,” said O’Rourke.

Explaining his decision to the media, Cuomo said: “There will be guidelines for the critical participants, but no crowds, no fans. But for this industry itself — for the televised viewers — that can work.

“We are more nuanced in our analysis looking for economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings.

“Remember, the problem here are crowds and gatherings. So what can you do?

“What economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd? They’re talking about this in terms of sports. You can have baseball without a crowd, but it can still be televised. Great. You can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great.

“We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks and we’re going to do that,” concluded Cuomo.

While this is good news for US racing fans, with the famous Belmont Stakes scheduled for June 20, there has been a U-turn in France, with the government reversing its decision to allow racing at the Paris tracks of Longchamp, St Cloud and Auteuil.

A statement from the French government said it had withdrawn its approval to race in parts of the country including Paris and the east of the country. Racing will be allowed to continue in Normandy and the south and the west.

The decision has infuriated French racing officials. A spokesperson for France Galup described it as “inexplicable and irrational”.

Meanwhile, the Racing Association in SA has announced it has paid out more than R3.2m in Covid-19 relief grants for owners for May.

It said 91 trainers had submitted claims in order to assist their owners while racing is in lockdown. A total of 3,879 grants have been approved, with 2,079 for Gauteng, 839 for the Western Cape and 633 for the Eastern Cape.

While the high figure for Gauteng is understandable, the number in the Western Cape suggests the horse population in that province is dwindling. This is a major concern given the importance of the Cape summer season from November to February when top races such as the Sun Met and L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate are run.

An important plus factor for having a horse trained in the Cape rather than Gauteng is that the smaller yards charge a lower monthly fee than their highveld counterparts. This could be an incentive for cash-strapped owners.