It’s one of the only sports in which the key participant can’t actually catch coronavirus.
- Horses do not appear to be susceptible to coronavirus
- Officials say 25,000 people are involved in the horse racing industry
- Officials have called for increased testing of jockeys on race days
In fact, given horses can’t get sick, racing administrators are hopeful a range of unprecedented measures that have recently been implemented will ensure their sport is the only one left standing when the coronavirus crisis peaks in the coming months.
Sport after sport in Australia has been shutting down or postponing key events, often left with little choice after news of a positive test was confirmed from one of its participants.
The CEO of Racing Victoria, Giles Thompson, was adamant that given his sport’s unique circumstance, racing didn’t need to be shut down like others have been, should one participant come down with the illness.
“That is not the case; we will identify the problem and continue to operate as long as we can,” he said.
“There are 25,000 people that are engaged in our sport and we need to make sure we keep the wheels turning, to keep them earning money.”
Leading Sydney trainer Richard Freedman agreed the sport had found itself in a unique situation, as the entire sporting world collapsed around it.
“Racing is essentially not a contact sport between humans.”
Jockey health critical
In Sydney, CEO of Racing New South Wales Peter V’landys revealed that quarantining sets of jockeys on race day was a possibility, in a bid to keep those riding in races healthy and allow officials to manage a positive test to the virus.
“That’s one option we are looking at,” he told Sky Racing.
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“This is an extraordinary time and it requires extraordinary measures.
“The peak of this virus is going to happen in mid-May to early June.”
As part of a new set of recommendations from Racing Victoria designed to protect jockeys, those wishing to ride interstate are also now required to travel by private vehicle or a charter flight, while the riding weight has been lifted to reduce wasting and time in saunas.
Freedman believes increased testing protocols related to jockeys should also be considered.
“They are the only ones that need to be in close proximity to each other and that only really takes place in the jockeys’ room,” he said.
As part of his own approach to dealing with the virus, Freedman has introduced temperature checks of all his staff arriving to work in his stable.
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“Common sense needs to be applied,” the trainer explained.
Checking the temperature of fans has become increasingly common as sports attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Freedman’s approach is a personal decision, while stables in Victoria have little option, after Racing Victoria made temperature checks on racecourses a permanent measure as part of their strategic response on Monday.
Thompson said they have watched other race clubs around the world use the tactic to good effect in the past.
“They have been using them in places like Hong Kong already.
“We have been in touch with Hong Kong in the last couple of days to see whether there is anything we can learn, but also just to source things such as temperature and measurement, and things are becoming quite scarce here in Australia,” he said.
One of racing’s key support acts is also pressing ahead.
The renowned Inglis Easter Yearling Sales in Sydney, where breeders sell thoroughbreds, is still scheduled for April.
As one of the leading thoroughbred auction houses, Inglis drives a significant amount of revenue from this particular marquee sale every year.
While the average sale price is expected to take a significant hit, the business has a backup plan when it comes to the likely tightening of social gatherings in the coming weeks and months.
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“Technology will play a critical role in maintaining our global marketplace for this sale,” said managing director Mark Inglis.
“Our online bidding services have now been in use for 10 years and are very robust and easy to use.
“I have no doubt they will be of great benefit to everyone involved in this sale.” he said.
Racing post bloodstock tweet: Invitation only Inglis to restrict attendees at flagship easter yearling sale
While Australian administrators feel their sport can stay the course, racing programs around the world have not been immune to the impact of the virus.
Last week the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, was been moved from May to September, and England’s Grand National was cancelled for the first time since World War II.
V’landys said racing has a uniquely important cultural role to play in this country.
“The Federal Government wants life to go on as normal,” he said.
“In the worse crises that Australia has ever had, racing has been there.”