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Racing suspended at Laurel Park because of coronavirus pandemic

The Maryland Jockey Club has canceled live racing at Laurel Park until further notice as the state continues to impose tighter restrictions on gatherings in hopes of slowing the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came in response to Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement Thursday that all inessential gatherings of more than 10 people would be prohibited.

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Laurel Park hosted spectator-free racing last weekend and was scheduled to do so again starting today. But in addition to Hogan’s order Thursday, the New York Racing Association suspended racing at Aqueduct after a backstretch worker at Belmont Park tested positive for COVID-19. Top jockeys such as Irad Ortiz Jr. and Rajiv Maragh said they would stop riding because of the surging pandemic.

The Maryland racing industry continues to wait for news on a possible postponement of the Preakness Stakes, scheduled for May 16. Hogan said Tuesday he had begun active negotiations to delay the race until September after Churchill Downs Inc. announced it would move the Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5.

Industry leaders and many horsemen had hoped to continue running at Laurel Park, saying it would be best for the state’s thoroughbred population and for the many barns that operate on slim profit margins. Some national racing officials even speculated that they could attract new fans by rolling on at a time when most sports have suspended play.

“In accordance with the Maryland Governor’s Executive Orders and as part of the continuing effort to protect the health and safety of essential personnel and the horses they care for, the Maryland Jockey Club will temporarily pause live racing at Laurel Park and Rosecroft Raceway," the Jockey Club said in a statement. "Our top priority is the well-being of every person and every horse in our community and we look forward to resuming when the state and federal leaders and health authorities deem it appropriate to do so.”

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