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Bernard Saundry outlines the high level impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on thoroughbred racing.
Bill Colgan
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Bernard Saundry outlines the high level impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on thoroughbred racing.

It is obvious that the Government ordered lockdown has had an immediate and long lasting impact on the racing industry in NZ with all racing and training now ceased.

This is NOT business as usual

Bernard Saundry
26 March 2020

If last night’s emergency alert message on your mobile phone was not sufficient warning, it should be very clear that the next few weeks under COVID-19 Level 4 will be unlike anything most of us have experienced.

For just the second time in history New Zealand is in a State of Emergency.  This should be a clear indication that the government’s messages regarding the four-week lockdown need to be taken seriously.

This is not a time for business as usual.

Industry participants will be aware that this week, in view of the country moving to Level 4 on its COVID-19 alert system, NZTR made representation to MPI to allow for the care of our horses to continue during this time.  These steps were taken purely for animal welfare purposes.

To enable this to happen strict protocols were developed to allow for horses to be fed, watered, generally cared for and, in the case of those horses confined to boxes/yards, to be exercised. 

The assumption was that where possible trainers would endeavour to take steps to protect themselves, their families, their staff and the general population by doing the right thing and heeding the instructions around the lockdown.

Many of our trainers have done just that, sending their horses out to spell and sending their staff home to isolate with their own support units.  I congratulate them on proactively taking this step. 

I will be very clear - training racehorses is not an “essential business”.   The welfare of our animals, however, is and that does mean that in some cases those looking after them will be able to make application to MPI to allow them to continue to do so.

If there are trainers who are in a situation where they have no alternative NZTR will provide assistance completing the necessary paperwork on MPI’s website.  This needs to be completed by 5pm on Friday, 27 March.  They should also be aware of the fact that under the State of Emergency police, and in some cases army, will be ensuring anyone driving at this time has a valid reason.  Breaching regulations can, and will, result in arrest. 

Racing, when it finally does resume will not look like it currently does for the remainder of our season on our calendar.  It is expected that when the resumption does come it will be in three phases as the alert level drops, these will still include restricted movement and require protocols in place, and we are preparing for that.

We have already begun work on what our new calendar might look like with fewer race dates in more localised regions close to horse populations.  It is also more than likely to include adjustments to stake levels.   However this is in the future and when we get there is largely dependent upon people doing the right thing now. 

We need people to take the COVID-19 threat seriously.  Our sole focus at the moment should be ensuring the safety of those around us.

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