Day At The Track

Industry participants set to learn about future

09:30 AM 25 Mar 2020 NZDT
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Racing industry participants should know tomorrow whether they can continue to care for their animals.

Racing bosses are hopeful strict new protocols around the use of stables and training facilities could see them approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and horses and dogs can be looked after at their usual high level by those who work inside the industry.

Racing was halted around the country on Monday in preparation for the Level 4 alert that comes into effect at 11.59pm tonight, as which point racing can not take place.

That means there will be no racing until the Level 4 alert is reduced to Level 3, a level at which horse and dog racing would seem to be allowed again but in front of no crowds and with restrictions including travel.

While nobody knows when Level 3 will be reached again those inside the racing industry don't just face the enormous financial worries many New Zealanders do but the more pressing problem of keeping that horses and greyhounds safe and healthy.

The animals need to be fed and exercised, their stables or quarters cleaned daily, all of which is crucially important for not only the horse's welfare but their viability as racing animals in the future.

If they can not be trained and their owners decide to retire or give up on them some horses and dogs may find new homes but many will not, especially in the economic meltdown that looms in the months and years ahead.

The two equine codes, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and Harness Racing New Zealand have agreed to adhere to the same strict protocols, which would ensure only essential working personnel were allowed at training tracks and that all safety measures implemented by the MIP would be followed.

NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry said the two codes applications, with the list of protocols they already have in place and new ones to be implemented, were lodged on Tuesday night at 5.55pm.

"Both equine codes have had dialogue with the Ministry today and we are hopeful we will have a decision from them tomorrow (Wednesday)," said Saundry, who says his team has worked closely with HRNZ.

"I have been in contact with HRNZ's chief executive Peter Jenson several times today and we both realise we have to work together and have the same measures in place."

The codes are confident training tracks and stables can remain safe places of work under these protocols and that people in racing can look after their horses without in any way risking the further spread of Covid-19.

"Sure there are economic issues around this further down the track and employment ones now but first and foremost this is about looking after the horses, keeping them healthy," says Saundry.

"If we can't do this, it becomes a huge horse welfare issue."

Already training tracks like the Franklin Park harness facility at Pukekohe have been closed but the Herald understands that will be a short-term measure and should the MPI rule positively on them being crucial to animal welfare, protocols will be put in place there that could see it open before by the weekend.

News that the care and training of horses and dogs may be able to continue, albeit with restrictions, will not only ease the pressure on trainers struggling to find places to send horses who couldn't be worked, but also allow them to continue to employ staff.


At a time when so many things we take for granted are changing, sometimes by the hour, here are some Covid-19 related racing points you may have missed.

** The $1.275 million Harness Jewels meeting which was to have been held at Cambridge on May 30 has been cancelled.
The meeting would have required substantial inter-island travel, which even if racing is back up and running by May, is unlikely to be possible.
It will also enable industry participants who were aiming horses at the meeting to spell them now if that is deemed necessary.

** Trackside television will continue on air (Sky 62 and 63) for the time-being with its main focus being Australian racing.
But there will be no domestic production from New Zealand with Trackside's Auckland headquarters shut down so racing coverage will be simulcast from overseas channels.

** Racing continues in Australia and there is still confidence in an ever-changing landscape that the major meeting at Rosehill will be held this Saturday and even possibly The Championships the following two Saturdays at Randwick.

** Harness racing in New South Wales was suspended as a precaution yesterday after one of their stewards was found to have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19.
That steward has been tested and if he returns a negative test to the virus HRNSW hopes to resume racing immediately, possibly by this weekend.

** The Dubai Cup, one of the world's richest race meetings, which was to have been staged without a crowd this Saturday has been called off.


Michael Guerin

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