After air quality conditions gradually improved throughout the state of New York, Belmont Park will be resuming racing at the track, according to an announcement from the New York Racing Association.
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will include an 11-race card on Friday and will go on as planned. Races are expected to begin at 12:50 p.m. ET.
Earlier in the week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced enhanced safety measures for the Belmont Stakes after the smoke from more than 400 Canadian wildfires led to an air quality health advisory in New York City and area surrounding the five boroughs.
The morning training was canceled at both Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park, and several other sporting events in the area were postponed.is scheduled for Saturday and the show is expected to go on. Thursday's
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Hochul said the air quality is a big issue that should be taken seriously, and she subsequently introduced enhanced safety measures. Those measures include canceling the Belmont Stakes if the air quality index there exceeds 200.
If the AQI reaches a value between 150-200, the horses will only be allowed to compete if they successfully pass an additional pre-race vet examination.
"This is a national phenomenon. People come from all over the country," Hochul told reporters. "It's huge for the local economy. We hopefully can get this going, but there's no assurance of what the weather's going to be, so it's going to be a last-minute decision, I'm sure."
The race takes place at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., which is roughly 20 miles from Yankee Stadium, where a game was postponed on Wednesday.
"NYRA utilizes external weather services and advanced, on-site equipment to monitor weather conditions and air quality in and around Belmont Park," read an NYRA statement shared by Horse Racing Nation on June 7. "NYRA will continue to assess the overall environment to ensure the safety of training and racing throughout the Belmont Stakes racing festival."
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However, races in Delaware Park and Finger Lakers -- which is just over 20 miles from Rochester -- were canceled Wednesday morning because of the air quality. Races won't resume there until Monday, June 12.
Due to the continued unhealthy air quality index in the area as the result of ongoing Canadian wildfires, racing has been canceled for today, Wednesday, June 7.— Finger Lakes Gaming (@FlGaming) June 7, 2023
Racing is scheduled to resume on Monday, June 12, with a 1:15pm post time. pic.twitter.com/lammbxiwe8
"What we are seeing right now is that this welfare committee is doing a very good job of very hard work to balance those scales and say the horses' welfare is in jeopardy if we prioritize the pleasure for people of watching this race," said Aviva Vincent, an assistant teaching professor at Syracuse University's Falk College School of Social Work. "That's a beautiful thing that is happening right now of saying we can wait and still have the race, but not have it right now, and then everybody wins."
Air quality index values above 100 mean air quality is considered "unhealthy for sensitive groups" and could particularly impact certain members of the population such as those with asthma, children, the elderly and pregnant women.
Above 150 is deemed "unhealthy" for everyone, and certain areas of New York state have already reached that level, including Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Eastern Lake Ontario Region and Central New York. The air quality is expected to continue to be "unhealthy," and another advisory was issued for Thursday.
UPDATE: DEC and @HealthNYGov have issued another Air Quality Health Advisory tomorrow, June 8th, for all of New York, except the Adirondacks.— New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (@NYSDEC) June 7, 2023
The air quality is forecasted to reach 'Unhealthy' AQI levels in: NYC Metro, Long Island, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central & Western NY. pic.twitter.com/AM63VuCJJU
"Chances are, they might not have the same feelings, but they are feeling some effect as well," Vincent said when asked about the air quality effect on the horses. "The general rule of thumb is if we are feeling it, so are they."
Belmont Park had an AQI of 130 for Wednesday, according to AccuWeather. The weather forecasting website is predicting an AQI of 118 for Saturday.
According to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority website, each racetrack is required to "develop, implement, and annually review a hazardous weather protocol." This includes the "implementation of a dangerous weather protocol, which includes for extreme heat and chill factors and air quality."
HISA states that if the AQI consistently reaches 100, the facility must be monitored daily to see if there is a "cause for concern in the local environment, including the presence of a wildfire in the area."
An AQI between 150-174 means facilities should be closely monitored while potentially "limiting training to jogging and/or jogging and gallops only and be prepared to take further action if conditions worsen."
Meanwhile, values of 175 and above are cause for restricting activity at the track, including but not limited to canceling live racing (if applicable); canceling official workouts; and prohibiting galloping, breezing or anything more strenuous than a jog.