Racing’s Global Response to Covid-19

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk

Harness Racing New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak is being mirrored across the Tasman and, in fact, around the world.

The rules come into force with immediate effect and, according to HRNZ chief executive Peter Jensen, “will remain in force until 13 April 2020. The Order and Direction is binding on all clubs, licence holders, owners and other persons to whom the Rules apply.”

The first race meetings to be affected by the decisions are Cambridge (tonight), followed by tomorrow’s meetings at Addington and Alexandra Park, Saturday at Wairio and the Waimate club’s meeting on Sunday.

HRNZ knows the rules won’t be universally accepted but say they have no choice.

The rules are as follows :

There will be no general admission to race meetings, trials, or workouts.

The only people that can attend race meetings, trials and workouts are

  • Licensed drivers engaged to compete at the meeting
  • Licensed trainers with horses entered at the meeting
  • Licensed stablehands employed by trainers with horses entered at the meeting, if that employee’s presence at the course  is essential and  has been notified to the club ahead of the meeting
  • Club and racing officials essential for the meeting to proceed
  • Members of the Judicial Committee appointed by the Judicial Control Authority
  • Broadcasting and other essential staff employed by the Racing Industry Transition Agency or accredited media as approved by HRNZ in writing.

In Australia, Harness Racing Victoria (HRV), and Harness Racing NSW are among the bodies that have also decided that only those essential to the running of racing being granted access to racecourses at all times”.

It follows the Federal Government's advice that all non-essential, organised gatherings of more than 500 people be cancelled to manage the spread of COVID-19.

That includes Saturday’s Golden Slipper at Rosehill. Normally the crowd would be in excess of 20,000. 

Further afield, all horse racing in Great Britain has been suspended until the end of April.

The Grand National, due to take place at Aintree, on 4 April, is now off.

Nick Rust, the chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said "this is a national emergency the like of which most of us have never seen before.

"We're a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government's latest advice."

Racing in Ireland continues, behind closed doors, with the Irish Grand National meeting planned for April 13.

Both gallops and harness racing in France has been suspended until at least then, meaning several important stakes races will be abandoned.

Germany announced a similar shutdown soon after the French decision, following the lead set by Belgium and Italy.

In the USA, the Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled from 2 May to 5 September.

It will be the first time for 75 years, since the Second World War, that the event has not been staged on the first Saturday in May.

The other races in the so-called 'Triple Crown', the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes are also set to be postponed.

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