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Churchill Downs backside reopens, welcomes 175 horses from New Orleans

There are 175 horses scheduled to be on the grounds according to senior director of the stable area Steve Hargrave.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs received its first horses from Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Monday.

There are 175 horses scheduled to be on the grounds according to senior director of the stable area Steve Hargrave.

“We’re so glad to be coming home,” trainer Greg Foley said.

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Foley, who lives with his family in Oldham County, Ky., had to experience an unplanned, extended stay in New Orleans following the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed entry to the backside at Churchill Downs by nearly two months. 

Foley is annually one of the first trainers to arrive at Churchill Downs and he held the tradition Monday as part of his string of horses were the first to pass the Stable Gate at 6 a.m. (all times Eastern).

Other trainers that arrived Monday included Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Bret Calhoun, Steve Margolis, and Al Stall Jr.

Prior to their arrival at Churchill Downs, approximately 295 COVID-19 tests were administered to all stable employees from Fair Grounds. There have been an additional 580 tests completed at Churchill Downs by Wild Health of Lexington.

Approximately 300 additional horses will be shipped into Churchill Downs from Fair Grounds between May 12-13.

Horses stabled in Florida are scheduled to arrive May 14-16 while horses from Arkansas are slated to arrive May 17-19. Horses that have been stabled in Kentucky and other locales can arrive starting on May 20.

Many top horses were on the first vans back to Churchill Downs including Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Serengeti Empress, multiple graded stakes winner Mr. Money and likely Matt Winn Stakes (GIII) contenders Major Fed and Mr. Big News.

Racing is scheduled to begin on May 16 at Churchill Downs with the first post of 1 p.m. entries for May 16 races will close on May 12.

As part of the provisions to resume live racing under strict guidelines and protocols, racing will be conducted spectator-free at Churchill Downs with no fans, owners, or media until government officials lift restrictions.

Only authorized racetrack employees and KHRC license holders who are providing support for a horse stabled at the facility are permitted on the property. 

This specifically includes only trainers with horses stabled or racing on the facility grounds and those who are responsible for the care of the horses (veterinarians, grooms, exercise riders, and farriers).

Churchill Downs COVID-19 Action Plan

Procedures, Guidelines, and directives

Pre-entry procedures include wearing at minimum a cloth/mask or face covering prior to entering and all times while on the grounds, COVID-19 testing, and passing a medical screening which includes a medical questionnaire and temperature reading.

All individuals who refuse to comply with the COVID-19 Action Plan or those who do not pass the medical screening will be denied entry onto the premises and asked to self-quarantine per CDC guidelines. A log will be kept for individuals that fail initial medical screening so that track security can ensure current CDC self-quarantine timelines have been met prior to attempted re-entry to site.

Each person on the grounds will be given a color-coded wristband which will validate that person has passed that day’s screening. Each day a new color will be used to ensure that all individuals are cleared to be on the grounds.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

In accordance with CDC guidelines, all horsemen and racetrack employees will be required to practice safe social distancing procedures. This includes avoiding group gatherings of any size and maintaining a six-foot social distancing protocol for all interactions. Track security will enforce social distancing policies in effect and repeated non-compliance will result in removal from the site.

ONSITE DAILY CHECK-INS

In addition to screening at the point of entry to the grounds, Churchill Downs will set up a process for daily onsite check-ins to screen individuals residing on the backside. These individuals will be required to report to a designated location on the grounds where they will have their temperature checked and must answer the questions for the medical questionnaire. Tracks will require all trainers to submit a badge list identifying their employees which will be cross-referenced to ensure that all employees are screened daily. Trainers will be advised of any individuals who failed to show up for their daily screening.

At the conclusion of daily screenings, security will also randomly check to make sure horsemen have the current color-coded wristband for each day. Anyone who does not have the correct wristband will be asked to re-screen immediately.

QUARANTINE PROTOCOLS

Churchill Downs will make medical staff available to provide more detailed medical evaluations for those individuals who do not pass the screening in an effort to determine if they meet the CDC guidelines for quarantining. Those who are not required to quarantine will be allowed to return to their regular assigned area(s) and will continue to participate in daily medical screenings. Those required to quarantine will be asked to report to their trainer to coordinate the offsite quarantine location in accordance with current CDC guidance.

At the conclusion of their CDC recommended duration of quarantine, the individual must be re-evaluated by a medical professional. If the individual still exhibits symptoms associated with COVID-19, the medical professional may recommend additional isolation or off-site treatment at that time. Conversely, upon successful medical re-screening, the individual will be allowed to return to their regular assigned area(s) and will continue to participate in daily medical screenings.

ONSITE STABLED HORSES & PERSONNEL PROCEDURES 

Personnel is encouraged to increase the frequency of handwashing by utilizing exterior hand sanitizing stations or by utilizing restrooms/bathhouses that are stocked with liquid soap.

In addition, the sharing of equipment shall be minimized (lead shanks, grooming tools, mucking equipment, etc.). If equipment must be shared among horsemen, it shall be disinfected between uses.

JOCKEYS’ ROOM

Churchill Downs will ensure that jockeys and staff are adequately spaced out in the jockeys’ room to comply with proper social distance guidelines. Jockeys shipping in from out of state or are outside of the normal colony will be separated in another room.

GRANDSTAND/FRONTSIDE ACCESS/PADDOCK AREA 

Grandstand, frontside and paddock access will be strictly limited to horsemen with horses racing and approved racing officials and track staff. All individuals in these areas will be checked by security personnel to ensure they have the correct color wristband for access or they will be screened if this is their first time on the grounds that day. Congregating on the apron in large groups will not be allowed. All facilities will remain closed to the general public. There will be no onsite wagering for racing to reduce the likelihood of the congregation and to limit touchpoints on the grounds. Paddock access will be limited to the trainer, assistant trainer, groom, and horse only.

CLEANING PROTOCOLS FOR BACKSIDE & TRACKSIDE OPERATIONS

Dormitories – To maintain cleanliness within our backside dormitories, track personnel will ensure cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, door handles, handrails, and tables, as well as non-porous surfaces in bathrooms, and laundry areas using EPA and CDC approved disinfectants. In addition, wastebaskets will be placed in visible locations and emptied regularly.

Restrooms – All restrooms/bathhouses are pre-cleaned daily and routinely cleaned during normal operations provided six-foot social distance practices can be maintained. This includes frequent removal of trash and thorough cleaning of all surfaces. All restrooms/bathhouses are stocked with liquid soap and all employees and on-site partners are encouraged to frequently wash their hands.

EMPLOYEE TRAINING 

Training has been developed and will be provided to all team members, security, and medical personnel on all new procedures and monitoring/reporting requirements. Medical personnel will develop and be trained on procedures to ensure that all suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection are properly communicated, documented, and directed to appropriate quarantine facilities.

ACCESS RESTRICTIONS 

To limit exposure and prevent the spread of germs and disease the following restrictions shall apply:

· No fans or media will be allowed at the track;

· No guests, no exceptions;

· No congregating in any areas;

· Official clockers and gap attendants to use their designated space(s) only;

· Only trainers and horsemen with horses stabled at Churchill Downs and Trackside and others are responsible for the care of the horses (veterinarians, grooms, exercise riders, farriers) are allowed in the stable area;

· Track kitchen will remain open to serve onsite personnel only via carryout orders;

· No access wrist bands will be issued to family members or guests of horsemen and racetrack employees; and

· Individuals under the age of 16 will be prohibited from entering the barn area at any time.

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