South Florida jockey adjusts to horse racing at Gulfstream Park without fans

HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Horse racing continues to go on at Gulfstream Park amid the coronavirus pandemic, but with a few changes.

One of the top jockeys in the world, 25-year-old Tyler Gaffalione, is used to seeing fans in the crowd, but now he’s riding in an empty stadium.

“It’s kind of sad,” said Gaffalione. “The best part about coming to race is getting to share the excitement with all the fans and after the race everybody is cheering.”

He was born and raised in Davie and has continued his career racing at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.

Gaffalione has been around horses since he was 4 years old and knew at an early age he wanted to be a jockey.

He’s the third generation of jockeys in his family and has been compared to Hall of Fame jockeys including Triple Crown winner Victor Espinosa.

“It’s very humbling,” said Gaffalione. “I’ve idolized those guys since I was a child, growing up and watching them race. They’re great riders and great people — it’s an honor.”

Gaffalione won the Pegasus World Cup Turf race in January and has won over 200 races a year on tracks around the world. He also won the Eclipse award five years ago as the rookie jockey of the year.

But now, he said, although racing is different without the fans in the stands, he’s just trying to stay focused.

“Gulfstream is taking all of the necessary precautions to keep us safe and everybody else safe,” he said. “Once you’re on the horse it’s business as usual. You have a job you have to do and we’re out there doing it to the best of our ability.”

The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park is still scheduled to take place later this month without fans.

“It’s great for us because we still have to make a living, same for the trainers and owners,” he said. “It’s important for all of us to continue to support our families and make a living doing what we love.”

The Kentucky Derby on the other hand has been moved to Sept 5.

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