Whether or not the Belmont Stakes runs as scheduled on Saturday will come down to a game-time decision, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Thursday. 

As the air quality in New York and the tri-state area continued to be an issue for the third straight day due to wildfires in Canada, Hochul outlined the parameters that would need to be met for the famed third leg of the Triple Crown to take place.

If the air quality index (AQI) reaches above 200 at any horse racing track in the state then “no racing or training may be conducted at that track,” according to a release from the Governor’s office.

If the AQI is between 150 and 200 at any track then “only those horses that pass an additional pre-race respiratory veterinary examination will be permitted to race,” according to the guidelines. 

“We have instituted enhanced measures to protect the horses and the riders and the spectators,” Hochul said during a news conference. 

A handler wears a mask as he leads a horse through the stables ahead of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Thursday, June 8, 2023, at Belmont Park.

The state has also enacted additional guidelines that say races and training can continue while the AQI is below 150, but once it breaches that threshold the track’s chief veterinarian must begin to inform a number of parties about the elevated numbers. 

From there the “chief veterinarian, stewards or presiding judges, horsepersons, jockeys, drivers, outriders, and racetrack management must collectively determine whether to cancel racing.”

Racing across the state had been suspended for the day on Thursday, which included training and workouts, until further notice.

A handler leads a horse back into the stables as the sun is obscured by haze caused by Canadian wildfires ahead of the Belmont Stakes on June 8, 2023.
A handler leads a horse back into the stables as the sun is obscured by haze caused by Canadian wildfires ahead of the Belmont Stakes on June 8, 2023.

New York and the tri-state area have been hit by the extraordinary plume of smoke coming from wildfires in Canada that have severely impacted the air quality of the region. 

“As New Yorkers continue to experience unhealthy air quality as a result of Canadian wildfires, we must all work to ensure that animals — including these peak-performance equine athletes — are protected,” Hochul said in a statement. “The measures being implemented at tracks across New York State are effective steps to keep all those who participate in the sport safe now and into the future.”

The city was covered in a haze of orange for part of Wednesday and forced the postponement of the Yankees’ meeting with the Chicago White Sox, the Liberty’s game against the Minnesota Lynx at Barclays Center and Gotham FC’s game at Red Bull Arena. 

The Yankees and White Sox were set to play a doubleheader in The Bronx on Thursday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul

Officials on Long Island had expressed optimism during a press conference that the Belmont Stakes would go on as scheduled.  

“The worst of it is going to be in the next 48 hours,” Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman said Wednesday. “We’re anticipating barring any change in weather conditions and wind it’ll dissipate by sometime Friday evening.”

PETA has already called for the Belmont Stakes to be canceled due to the air quality issues.

“If the air in New York is unsafe for humans, it will be worse for horses running at top speed,” a statement from the animals rights organization read.

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