No spectators will be allowed at annual Sunland Derby due to coronavirus concerns


EL PASO, Texas The 17th annual Sunland Derby, as well as the Sunland Parks Oaks, will both be run without spectators in the stands.

Both races will go on as scheduled next Sunday, March 22. But due to recent concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus, only individuals who are licensed by the New Mexico Racing Commission and the media will be allowed to be in attendance.

Sunland Park announced Friday it is restricting access to all racetrack viewing areas, including the grandstands, Franklin’s Lounge, the Turf Club, and trackside viewing. Live simulcasting of other races will also be closed for the foreseeable future.

On Thursday, the New Mexico Department of Health issued a Public Health Order restricting “mass gatherings.”  The order is designed as a precautionary tool to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

New Mexico health officials say 10 people in the state have now tested positive for the new coronavirus, with the new cases including household members of those who had previously tested positive.

“The Sunland Derby consistently draws record crowds to the track,” Ethan Linder, director of marketing for Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino said in a news release. “We have to do our part to help slow the spread of this virus,” he added.

The casino, hotel, and restaurant at Sunland Park will remain open and operate their normal hours, as per the order.

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino has upgraded its disinfection protocols to ensure it is providing the safest environment possible for customers. Changes include:

  • Property-wide daily disinfection with hospital-grade electrostatic sprayers to minimize the spread of viruses
  • Additional staff assigned to continuous disinfection of casino and restaurant
  • Increased the number of hand sanitizing and disinfecting wipe stations located throughout the property.

“Excitement always builds in March as horse racing fans look forward to seeing elite horses compete, and cheering on the next Sunland Derby winner,” said Linder. “But as we finalize the field for next week’s big day, we can’t overlook the situation with coronavirus occurring around the world. We will continue to monitor the situation and post updates,” he said.

  For the latest information, updates will be posted to or

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