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Laurel Horsemen Adjusting to Fan-Free Racing
Four Stakes Worth $400,000 on Saturday Program
Rainbow 6 Carryover $14,583, Super Hi-5 Carryover $2,469
LAUREL, MD – It was business as usual – well, almost – as live racing returned to Laurel Park Friday with a full card of eight races contested entirely without fans.
Due to ongoing health protocols related to containing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Maryland Jockey Club joined with racing jurisdictions around the world in closing racetracks to the public.
Only licensed personnel such as trainers, owners, grooms, jockeys and their valets and racing officials are being allowed on the grounds for the live race programs.
“It’s odd to be out here with no audience. It’s quiet. You don’t have the people and the noise and all that kind of stuff, so it’s a lot different,” veteran trainer Dale Capuano said. A winner of nearly 3,500 career races and based at Laurel, Capuano had two starters Friday.
“As a trainer I think they’re taking every precaution that they can to keep us safe and healthy, so we can’t ask for much more than that,” he said. “And we’re able to race, so that’s all good.”
Jockey Sheldon Russell won two of Friday’s first six races, both for his wife, trainer Brittany Russell - Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables’ 3-year-old gelding Wondrwherecraigis ($7.60) in Race 3, and Pinochle Partners’ 4-year-old filly Raging Blaze ($45) in Race 6.
“Since I’ve been riding it’s the first time it’s happened, but there’s been no problems. Us jockeys in there, we’re used to that. It’s pretty much like morning workouts. We have no fans in the mornings,” Sheldon Russell said. “So, right now we’re just trying to get through the day but it hasn’t bothered any of us. We’re just very lucky to be still racing.”
A winner of more than 1,370 winners and one of Maryland’s representatives to the Jockeys’ Guild, Russell applauded efforts being taken to combat what continues to be a progressing situation across the globe.
“Especially in the jocks’ room, I see some of the valets are taking extra precautions with sanitizing all of our equipment. Obviously, we’re not shaking hands. We’re just listening to what we hear on the news and taking every precaution to keep on track and all stay healthy,” Russell said.
“I think Maryland horsemen have done a great job trying to continue to run. I know a lot of people are counting on us to continue racing,” he added. “I think it’s good that horse racing has stayed strong and we’re lucky enough to be in the position that we are – one of the last sports on TV and able to continue our jobs. Hopefully we’ll get some extra exposure, something horse racing definitely needs.”
Laurel Park will play host to an 11-race program Saturday, March 14 featuring four $100,000 stakes – the Private Terms for 3-year-olds and Beyond the Wire for 3-year-old fillies, Harrison E. Johnson Memorial for 4-year-olds and up and Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older.
First-race post time Saturday is 1:10 p.m.
Fans can click here to live stream Laurel’s races and also watch and wager at both Xpressbet and 1/ST BET.
Saturday’s card will include carryovers of $14,583.61 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 6-11) and $2,469.78 in the $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 2). Multiple tickets with all six winners in Friday’s Rainbow 6 returned $1,109.98.
Notes: In addition to Russell, winter meet-leading jockey Trevor McCarthy had two winners Friday aboard Walk Away Joe ($11) in Race 1 and Let’s Play Nine ($3.60) in Race 4.