Horses hit the track at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach Wednesday, with ownership citing the need for exercise during the coronavirus outbreak.
"Our priority during these challenging times is the health and well-being of our employees and the horses we all love and care for. Racehorses are living, breathing animals that require constant supervision and care," Bill Badgett, the executive director for Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream, said in a statement. "It would be detrimental to their health, safety and welfare to stand in their stalls without daily exercise."
Badgett said the races were being conducted by "essential personnel only who are operating under stringent measures for protection."
Gulfstream is home to about 3,200 horses. The park closed all their venues to the public on March 12.
Broward County has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana told the Sun-Sentinel Tuesday that Gulfstream was threatening the city with legal action if it tried to shut it down.
Badgett denied the claim, saying "any suggestion of legal action at this time is false."
"We will continue to work with all stakeholders including city, county and state officials to ensure that we are in full compliance with all requirements for social distancing," Badgett's statement read.