The president of the Hambletonian Society urges people to be diligent in social distancing and limiting what they do when in public. He also shares his thoughts about being fluid about the stakes season ahead.
by Dave Briggs
Hambletonian Society president John Campbell said people need to take COVID-19 “very, very seriously” and listen to government directives on social distancing and hand washing.
“I think there’s a certain segment of the public that’s not taking it as seriously as they should,” Campbell said Wednesday. “I think everybody has to… be diligent in this social distancing and limiting what you do when you’re out in public. Just be out in public the least amount that you possibly can.
“We’re in Bergen County and that was (location of) the first (COVID-19 death in New Jersey)… that’s where John Brennan lived, so obviously everybody is on alert.”
Since last Friday, Campbell has been working from home.
“We’ve basically shut down other than going back and forth from my daughter’s house, which is really close. That’s about it, other than (my wife) Paula going to the grocery store, when need be,” Campbell said.
“We’ve staggered our staff at the office, so we have limited interaction. We can’t close our office, just because of the stake payment period, because we’ve got payments coming in. To close the office would be to shut down the entire stake process and we can’t do that.
“We took our March 15th payments and we’re processing those and, obviously, it takes a few days for all the mail to come in and get them all accounted, but that’s what we’re doing now. As for April 15th, we haven’t made any decisions or suggestions at this point in time, but it’s something that we really don’t know and we’re certainly going to have to be fluid moving through the stake period time.”
Campbell said it’s too early to talk about alternative dates for Hambletonian Society stakes.
“It is a little premature, but we’ve already thought about that and… we’ve put an email out to a number of people and entities about just having open lines of communication as we move forward, as far as stakes, rescheduling and re-opening.
“We’re going to be fluid and going to have lines of communications open with all the tracks, race secretaries and stakeholders moving forward, so nobody gets blindsided by somebody’s decision.”
Campbell said his hope is that this year’s stakes will be raced, somehow. The economics of the game depend, somewhat, on it.
“If our major owners and people that participate don’t get to race in the same amount of stakes they normally would… that’s going to cut down on their revenue and that’s going to cut down on disposable income for sales in the fall, so I think that’s one of the main concerns. Just the revenue standpoint from the owners and trainers and drivers. That’s going to have a trickle effect on the yearling sales, for sure, if we aren’t allowed to race the schedule. Whatever that schedule looks like, we don’t know,” he said.
“I think this is going to be a situation of months and not weeks before we get any semblance of normal and I don’t know what our new normal is going to be when this all passes. I think everybody should be prepared for that time frame and then, if it’s less, have a party.”
As for maintaining his own sanity, Campbell said he’s been lucky to have had the chance to get in a little golf.
“Our golf course, you can walk and carry your own bag, so I did that and played alone,” he said. “I went over and played a few holes. I think that’s one of the safest places you can be is out on a golf course by yourself. I’ll be out a couple of times before the end of the week again. The forecast doesn’t look too bad.”