NZ racing to continue behind closed doors
Thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing in New Zealand will continue in spite of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but with all events closed to all but essential personnel.
The decision has been taken by the governing bodies of the three racing codes, in partnership with TAB NZ, the governing body for racing and wagering in the country, and came into effect from today (18 March), until 13 April.
As a result the only people permitted to attend meeting will be jockeys and drivers competing in the races; trainers with runners participating, as well as their stable or kennel staff, and essential raceday personnel.
“The health and wellbeing of our participants and the wider community are of paramount importance at his time,” NZ Harness Racing chief executive Peter Jensen explained. “Public health is the number one priority and these restrictions will continue to be kept under constant review.”
Furthermore, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR), with support of the Jockey Association, has issued a directive stating that riders must not accept engagements that include travel between New Zealand’s north and south islands.
“We have the support of our recognised industry organisations – the trainers, jockeys and owners – along with our racing clubs to take whatever steps that we can to provide an appropriate framework to allow racing to continue,” NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry said. “We recognise that these are extraordinary circumstances and they require extraordinary action.”
The TAB, meanwhile, will continue to broadcast racing on Trackside TV stations and on its website. However, it will reduce its on-course operations to minimal broadcasting facilities, with no Tote services provided on-site.
“The key priority for the industry is to ensure the wellbeing of all of our staff, participants, supporters and the community, as well as our animals,” Greyhound NZ chief executive Glenda Hughes added. “To ensure we achieve this Greyhound, Harness and Thoroughbred racing are working closely together to achieve this.”
The decision looks set to make New Zealand one of the only countries in which some forms of top-level sport will continue. In the UK, the horseracing sector had initially aimed to bring all events behind closed doors, only to cancel all meetings until at least the end of April a day later, with the showpiece Grand National event cancelled. Meanwhile the main event in the US horseracing calendar, the Kentucky Derby, has been postponed until 5 September.
UK greyhound racing, however, will continue with minimal on-course personnel. Almost all other sports worldwide have been forced to suspend events as a result of the pandemic.