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NJ Racing Rocked By COVID-19

Published: March 21, 2020 2:50 pm ET

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"I’m not sure if it’s fear, anxiety, or whatever you want to call it, but we all saw what was happening in China and the rest of the world, and when it hits close to home, it’s an eye opener for horse racing. We see things in the news. People are saying, ‘This isn’t real.’ It’s real. And it’s scary."

A number of prominent harness racing industry participants from the state of New Jersey were featured in an article on nj.com in the wake of five deaths from the coronavirus pandemic and an industry shutdown.

“You can’t dispute that I endanger my help when I put them in a truck and send them (to Yonkers or Freehold)," said Hall of Fame trainer Linda Toscano, who oversees approximately 15 people at her stable. “It’s kind of like the butterfly effect at this point. Every life touches another, especially in this group of people. I’m not an alarmist, but I definitely am taking precautions."

According to New Jersey state health officials, the deaths of John Brennan, Rita Fusco-Jackson, Carmine Fusco, Grace Fusco and Vincent Fusco are all connected. It's believed that many of the Fuscos were infected at a family gathering not attended by Brennan, but Roseann Paradiso Fodera, a cousin and the lawyer representing the Fusco family, said that trainers Carmine and Vincent Fusco “did do a lot of business" with him.

“I was actually sitting in John Brennan’s office three weeks ago, and never in a million years did I think I could say I knew someone who had the coronavirus, let alone a person who died from it," said Toscano. “And to read about what’s going on with the Fusco family right now, it’s awful."

The article also features comments from owner John Curtin, driver Yannick Gingras, announcer Ken Warkentin, analysts Bob Heyden and Dave Brower, trainers Kelvin Harrison, Joe Holloway and Tom Fanning as well as Dr. Stavros Christoudias and Meadowlands general manager Jason Settlemoir.

"No doubt there’s some angst for us to get back to business," said Settlemoir, "but until they find out more about this virus, I think the right precautions have been made in the state of New Jersey to contain this."

To read the full article, click the following link: Coronavirus has claimed five members of N.J.'s harness racing community. Horsemen wonder, ‘Who’s next?’.


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