First level three meeting to go ahead
By Michael Guerin
Alexandra Park is set to host New Zealand’s first equine race meeting at Level 3 but which horse people are allowed to compete is still unclear.
ATC chief executive Mauro Barsi has confirmed Thursday's meeting will go ahead unless there is a dramatic change in lockdown levels and the situation in Auckland.
While the greyhound code held a meeting on the final day of the last Level 3 national lockdown on May 12, no horse racing meetings have been held during an active Level 3.
That will change on Thursday night with the ATC meeting to go ahead with essential personnel only.
“The meeting will be run strictly as a work place,” says Barsi.
“We will only have the people there who are essential to the meeting being run.”
That means no public and no owners, even though owners will be allowed at most other meetings around the country this week at Level 2.
“We won’t have any restaurants or bars open but one cafe for the horse people,” explains Barsi.
“Even people who we normally have at every race meeting, like raceday club stewards, we will have less of and the ones who are there we will use at the entry gates to remind people as politely as possible that we are a closed meeting.
“So while all that is unfortunate we are happy to be racing and giving industry participants the opportunity to earn some money for themselves and their owners.”
Harness Racing New Zealand is still waiting for a definitive ruling on whether horses from outside the Auckland region, predominantly Waikato, can race at the meeting and less likely whether their trainers or drivers can come with them.
Thoroughbred racing is allowing Auckland region horses to compete at races and trials in Waikato this week but humans can not accompany them across the Level 3 boundaries and they have to travel with a horse transport company and be met at the races by registered stable staff.
That is further complicated for harness racing with many of the trainers who would be likely to come north from Waikato to race also potentially driving their own horses, so perhaps even less likely to want to send horses to meetings they can’t attend themselves.
The entries for Thursday night’s meeting have been held open until today and several Waikato-trained horses are nominated and their trainers do have the option of basing their horses with an Auckland region trainer.
If HRNZ cannot get trainers and drivers declared essential racenight personnel, then top drivers like David Butcher, Todd Mitchell, Peter and Dylan Ferguson will miss Thursday’s meeting while champion trainer Mark Purdon, who was likely to fly from Christchurch for the meeting, is very unlikely to be there.
But the meeting did have more than enough horses nominated from the Auckland region to compile at least 10 races.