Racing to go ahead after negative result

David Braithwaite


Racing Victoria has advised that racing will resume in Victoria on Friday, following confirmation jockey Mark Zahra has tested negative for COVID-19.

Earlier report:

THE suspension of horse racing across Victoria this week because of coronavirus fears has put Sunday’s Maffra Cup meet in doubt.

Horse racing was suspended across the state on Wednesday and Thursday while a jockey undergoes testing for COVID-19.

Racing Victoria said in a statement the participant had been advised by health authorities they were on the same flight as a confirmed case of COVID-19 before the introduction of strict protocols governing the conduct of racing in Victoria and the federal government’s announcements last Friday restricting social gatherings.

“The participant is not currently displaying any symptoms of COVID-19,” the statement read.

“In the event that the participant’s test is negative, RV will be seeking to resume racing. A further update will be provided tomorrow (Thursday) on the progress of the test and whether racing can resume on Friday.”

Early this week, horse and greyhound racing bodies announced they would continue despite restrictions on businesses and public gathering being imposed.

At the time of publication, events for both racing codes are due to be held in Sale on Sunday.

After considering federal and state government directives and medical advice, the Racing Victoria board determined that horse racing will continue in the state until further notice.

Attendances at meetings are being restricted to horse owners, trainers and stable staff, jockeys, raceday officials, and official broadcasters and photographers.

Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said since restrictions on social gatherings were first announced, RV, with the support and cooperation of industry stakeholders, had acted swiftly to implement protocols which allowed for the continuation of racing.

“Throughout this period we have maintained two clear objectives; to protect the health and wellbeing of industry staff, participants and indeed the wider community; and to provide a framework that allowed for the safe continuation of Victorian racing for the 25,000 people whose livelihoods depend on it and for our horses which require ongoing care and attention,” he said.

“The thoroughbred racing industry generates over $3.2 billion economic activity within the state of Victoria and supports the employment of a vast array of people including trainers, stable staff, jockeys, breeders, vets, farriers, float drivers, administrators, officials and many more. It is a major and important contributor to the state of Victoria, particularly throughout country and regional areas.

“Racing is a non-contact sport where horse handling requires social distancing, and one that has demonstrated previously through the equine influenza outbreak of 2007 that it can successfully implement quarantine measures.

“These are unprecedented times and we have rightly taken unprecedented actions over the past fortnight around banning crowds, locking down training centres, introducing compulsory temperature checks for people entering courses, isolating and restricting the movement of jockeys and abandoning our picnic racing season, to ensure that we provide the safest environment possible for the continuation of Victorian racing.

“In addition, our racing clubs, training centres and individual trainers have also implemented strict protocols to mitigate risks within their work environments and to manage the health and wellbeing of their staff, whilst ensuring that all our horses continue to receive the great care and attention that they are used to.”

Thompson said horses required daily and appropriate hands-on management whether racing continued or not.

“We equally know that they thrive upon exercise and the daily routine they are afforded in their training environments. This has been an important factor in our considerations,” Thompson said.

“The decision to continue racing and training is not one that has been taken lightly, but we make it knowing that Victorian racing will continue to do everything to remain compliant with all the current directives, guidelines and advice established by the Victorian government on the advice of the Chief Health Officer.

“We won’t rest on our laurels though. We will continually review this decision in consultation with government and health authorities to ensure that we are acting in not only the best interests of all of the staff and stakeholders in our industry, but their families, friends and indeed the wider community.”

Horse owners, club members, the general public, non-broadcast media and non-essential staff are currently banned from attending all Victorian race meetings. Only jockeys engaged to compete, trainers with runners engaged and registered stable staff, essential raceday officials and staff, and the official broadcaster and photographer are permitted.

Compulsory temperature checks are being carried out by medical staff at the entrance to each Victorian race meeting, with those displaying a temperature of 37.6 degrees or above not be permitted to enter or compete.

Jockeys who have travelled interstate since March 17 via a commercial flight are banned from competing in Victoria while they complete 14 days of self-isolation. Jockeys can compete if they had travelled in private vehicle or charter flight.

The remainder of the picnic (amateur) racing season has been abandoned.

All official flat trials have been cancelled until further notice, while all jump-outs will be restricted to local horses.

Greyhound Racing Victoria will also continue to take advice from the Chief Health Officer and work with clubs and other stakeholders to protect participants.

On-track arrangements are being put in place to ensure compliance with new social distance arrangements.

GRV is also looking at ways to hold race meetings with skeleton staff and limiting participant numbers at tracks.

The strict health protocols which currently apply at tracks will continue.

The public cannot attend race meetings, with attendance restricted to licensed trainers (or their representatives) with runners engaged, catchers and essential staff, in line with advice from the Chief Health Officer.

The bistro at the Sale Greyhound Club will reopen Friday night for takeaway meals.