In this week’s TDN Writers’ Room presented by Keeneland, NYTHA president Joe Appelbaum joined the crew as the Green Group Guest of the Week to talk about when we can expect to see racing again in New York, the efforts to help Belmont backstretch workers, his personal betting strategies and much more.
“The situation on the backstretch has improved considerably, not unlike the rest of the situation in New York City,” Appelbaum said. “In Nassau County, we’re functioning. We have close to 1,500 horses there. They’re training six days a week. We’ve been meeting with a combination of NYRA, NYTHA, the Racetrack Chaplaincy, BEST. So yes, we’ve had a couple dozen positives. We’re now actually seeing people coming out of quarantine. We’ve been using a very strong prophylactic quarantine program. So not just people who are testing positive or being quarantined, but others who may have been exposed to them, and we think that’s been pretty successful.”
Inevitably, as in any discussion of racing resuming in New York, the topic turned to Saratoga. The crown jewel of the Empire State’s racing season, it remains in question what this year’s meet will look like, and while Appelbaum says he thinks there will be racing at the Spa this year, it’s too early to tell if it will be a regular eight-week season with fans.
“I think it all depends what you mean by regular. Are we going to race? Assuming the trajectory of the virus and our ability to control it continues as it has I would say it’s highly, highly likely we’re going to race at Saratoga,” he said. “What regular means, I don’t think any of us have a clue. We can all speculate. I hear a lot of speculation about sports starting in the fall or not and I think everyone is getting way ahead of themselves. The facts on the ground of change so quickly every day. I was telling someone yesterday, you want me to make a decision on 90 days from now when things change every 90 minutes. It’s unbelievable.”
Elsewhere on the show, in the West Point News of the Week, the writers recapped a big day of racing at Oaklawn and lamented the inability of racetracks to coordinate post times, even now when there are only two or three tracks running. Click here to listen to the podcast.