Jockey At Parx Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Training Suspended At Track

Posted on August 14, 2020 - Last Updated on August 20, 2020

Jockey Anthony Salgado, a rider at Parx Casino’s horse racing track with lifetime total purse winnings of more than $14.1 million, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to multiple sources at the track.

The positive result came just after Salgado ran in five races on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the thoroughbred track in Bucks County, just outside Philadelphia.

Sources at the track said Friday that an additional two people associated with the track have now also tested positive. The sources said the additional infections are in backside workers who deal directly with horses.

Training had resumed as of Saturday, and racing is scheduled to take place on Monday.

No statement from Parx regarding coronavirus at the track

However, at the time of publication, there had been no detailed explanation of the situation to Parx employees or horsemen.

There’s also been no response to a request for comment by PlayPennsylvania to track official Joe Wilson, director of operations.

On Wednesday at 8 p.m., track management texted the following message to track employees and horsemen:

Parx Horsemen: Attention Horsemen – training is cancelled for tomorrow

There was no further explanation for the cancellation.

Virginia track cancels season due to a coronavirus-positive jockey

Friday evening, several racing publications, led by the Daily Racing Form, reported that Colonial Downs, the only thoroughbred track in Virginia, has canceled the rest of its meet after a leading jockey there tested positive for the virus. Management had canceled several days of racing earlier in the week before deciding to cancel all racing for the rest of the season.

According to Thoroughbred Daily News, management at Colonial explained the decision thus:

As a result of recent test results at the track in New Kent County, and in an abundance of caution, Colonial Downs is canceling the remainder of its 2020 meet. In making our decision, we collaborated with the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent Protection Association (VHBPA) and Virginia Racing Commission. We have communicated the outcome with all participating parties. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s cooperation and support. This was a difficult decision, but the best one for Virginia’s racing community.

Horsemen initially left in the dark about coronavirus infections

Horsemen at Parx appeared to be largely in the dark about the virus infections on Friday.

Uriah St. Lewis, a Parx-based trainer, said he had learned details about Salgado’s health from the jockey’s agent, but not much from management. The jockey had ridden one of St. Lewis’ horses on Aug. 11.

“His agent is concerned, but he’s isolated and doing good,” St. Lewis said regarding the jockey.

The trainer has been at the track for decades, back when it was Philadelphia Park, prior to the casino.

Update comes from PTHA

By Saturday, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association had posted this update on Facebook:

Attention Parx Horsemen:
As most of you know, one of our Jockeys tested positive last week for Covid-19. These are the facts regarding current procedures:
1. Previously established Parx protocols have been put in place. A stop has been put in place at the gate for all (Parx has 31 regular jockeys) until they produce a Negative Covid test. As of this date, 21 Parx Jockeys have done so.
2. As long as we continue following strict protocols regarding wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing and selected Covid-19 testing, Joe Wilson believes there is no reason to stop training or racing.
Again, Joe Wilson and the PTHA Board ask for the horsemen’s full cooperation- which we expect 100%.
Respectfully, Michael Ballezzi, Executive Director, PTHA

Parx trainer says management is an ongoing issue

St. Lewis unloaded on Parx management’s “hush-hush” attitude “with everything.” He said:

“They do not treat us nice. They don’t answer anything. They are not concerned at all.”

“I think they want to close the track, which is why they treat us like this,” said St. Lewis. Horse racing’s popularity and revenues are in a long decline.

While St. Lewis was proximate to Salgado briefly, he said he has no personal health concerns despite the infections.

The trainer, who lives a mile from the track, said he always follows mask and hand-washing protocols.

Even before the virus, he saw to it each horse had each leg dipped in disinfectant-filled buckets, and that his crew also cleaned up with disinfectant.

Parx horsemen’s rep and the local health department have nothing to say

Sal DeBundo, a lawyer who represents horsemen at Parx in his role leading the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA), did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither did the Bucks County Health Department, which has local oversight for carrying out state directives.

State agencies weigh in

The PA Department of Health said it cannot comment on specific cases.

But the spokesperson added:

“Generally speaking when an individual receives a COVID-19 positive test, public health professionals conduct a case investigation within 24 to 48 hours to educate the individual as well as gather information about where they went and who they came in contact with while infectious.

“Through contact tracing, those staffers work to notify those close contacts of their possible exposure.”

Racing Commission hasn’t gotten notice of Monday race cancellation

On Friday, the PA Horse Racing Commission (PHRC) said it has not been given any notification that Parx intends to cancel racing on Monday, which is required to call off races.

A recent story in PlayPennsylvania on the enforcement of health protocols at tracks found finger-pointing between state agencies when it came to responsibility for health procedures.

Photo by Photo via Getty Images
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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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