Racing set to continue through lockdown as carnival looms
3rd August 2020

Victorian racing will continue, for the time being at least, during the stage four lockdown.

It's a massive relief for race clubs desperate to keep the sport going, with the spring carnival looming, and jockeys and trainers reliant on in its continuation for their livelihood.

The first group one race of the Melbourne spring carnival is only a matter of weeks away, and the Melbourne Cup itself will be run three months to the day on Tuesday.

However, authorities will be asked to further restrict the number of personnel who will be allowed on track and keep attendance to an absolute minimum.

"That sound you can hear is a huge sigh of relief from 850 trainers, who need the sport to continue to protect their businesses and those they employ," said Andrew Nicholl, chief executive of the Australian Trainers' Association.

"The people in Spring Street were probably thinking very strongly about it, but it is great that they have given it approval to continue. We would hope it's a vote of confidence in our ability to keep on top of the situation.

"We have not had one case at our training tracks, at racecourses, or from industry personnel and it's a tribute to the diligence of all involved. We are used to dealing with strict bio-security protocols and we are constantly monitoring and trying to improve them."

Racing has continued throughout the pandemic, with jockeys and trainers all following strictly enforced bio-security schedules to ensure that no one involved with the sport spread the virus.

So far the racing industry has operated under those guidelines since All Star Mile Day at Caulfield on March 14, when it first went behind closed doors, with no cases of COVID-19 being linked to the sector.

Horses need to be fed, watered and exercised and trainers and owners need to generate prizemoney to help cover the expenses.

Nicholl said that trainers, like all businesses, were finding it hard during the pandemic, particularly when it came to selling shares in horses they might have bought as yearlings months before the COVID-19 crisis hit.

"We probably have not seen a massive drop off in terms of owners paying fees – perhaps up from 20 cases a month to 30 or 40. But the biggest concern is owners saying that they cannot afford to buy this horse, or take the shares they said they would in another horse, or cutting back generally," he said.

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