Belmont Park reopening supplies ‘glimmer of hope’ amid coronavirus

Mike Repole grew up going to Aqueduct and Belmont Park, the place the seeds had been planted for his horse racing fandom.

The Queens native and present thoroughbred proprietor received’t be capable of be again at Belmont on Wednesday for its delayed opening day, however the significance of horse racing being the primary sport to return in New York from the coronavirus pandemic is definitely not misplaced on him.

“Racing being again usually, I feel, is nice for the game. However racing being again in New York, I feel, is even greater,” Repole, the proprietor of Repole Stables, advised The Publish. “Clearly New York was hit so laborious by the pandemic and so many instances … I feel it’s much more particular that Belmont is opening. It’s one factor when somebody is quarantined and so they’re watching Tampa Bay Downs or they’re watching Gulfstream.

“However the potential to know that, you realize what, there’s a glimmer of hope sooner or later as a result of that monitor — a half hour away from me, 10 minutes away from me, an hour away from me — is doing enterprise, I feel it provides individuals some hope and promise that regardless that there will likely be a brand new regular, no less than we’re going to get to some sense of normalcy.”

Repole may have a vested curiosity within the races — significantly the third race on Wednesday, when his 2-year-old maiden, the Todd Pletcher-trained Prisoner, is ready to run a 5-furlong race with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard.

Regardless of Repole’s native roots, Prisoner might have a tough time changing into the fan favourite — not when a horse named Fauci is operating subsequent to him. However Repole has excessive hopes.

“After they often begin and we like them, if he breaks his maiden, you discuss hope sooner or later and being a champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old Derby contender and possibly at some point win the Belmont Stakes, like one thing I’ve dreamed about since I used to be a 13-year-old child,” the St. John’s grad mentioned.

Whereas Repole mentioned racing was the very last thing he was fearful about over the previous few months as COVID-19 plagued the nation, he nonetheless had to determine what to do together with his horses within the interim. He despatched half of them to a farm in Ocala, Fla., to get a break whereas the opposite half went with Pletcher to Gulfstream Park in Florida, the place racing by no means stopped.

Now, they’re transport horses again to New York with Belmont reopening for races Wednesday and Saratoga opening for coaching Thursday.

Like followers, house owners aren’t but allowed at Belmont, however Repole understands the highest precedence.

Mike Repole
Mike RepoleGetty Photographs

“My thought right now about no followers is so much completely different than it was three months in the past,” he mentioned. “The No. 1 concern is security of individuals. We at all times discuss horse racing, how essential the protection of the horses is, however this has now modified that the protection of people that work with these horses are in jeopardy each single day they exit, too.”

Precautions have been taken on the backstretch at Belmont to guard the well being and security of its staff, as coaching has continued to go on all through the pandemic regardless of the shortage of races. These efforts have introduced everybody “just a little nearer,” Repole mentioned, and opened the door for racing to return in New York.

“Hopefully horse racing first, after which the Rangers, the Knicks, the Nets and the Islanders, and the Mets and the Yankees, and soccer beginning and getting this virus underneath management and attempting to remain forward of it,” Repole mentioned.

“We’d like one thing to root for. Being in New York and New York being hit so laborious, there’s going to be an excellent feeling a couple of sporting occasion in New York that’s going to be completely different than simply sports activities opening up usually.”

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