The New Zealand Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) has confirmed the transitional calendar for the remainder of the 2019-20 horse racing season, and also announced that greyhound racing will return next week.
Harness racing will resume on 29 May, with thoroughbred racing to follow on 3 July. However, the revised calendar will feature racing at a reduced number of tracks to ensure racing is run in line with government measures designed to stop the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Racing has been suspended in the country since 25 March when the government implemented Alert Level 4, which resulted in a nationwide lockdown. Last week, this was lowered to Alert Level 3, allowing racing staff to recommence trialling and training.
Prior to this, RITA had set out a draft plan for a resumption of racing following the pandemic, including proposals to restart harness and thoroughbred racing on the now-confirmed dates.
Meanwhile, RITA has also announced that greyhound racing will recommence on 5 May, almost a week earlier than the proposed 11 May restart date set out in its draft plan last month.
Other major changes to RITA’s draft proposal include eight additional greyhound meetings, as well as an additional harness meeting on 7 June. Start times for both greyhound and harness dual meetings and kennelling time will be adjusted due to coronavirus restrictions.
In addition, all New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club Friday licences in June will revert to night meetings in line with current measures.
WorkSafe, New Zealand’s primary workplace health and safety regulator, has approved the return-to-racing protocols, with implementation to be managed directly between the racing code and the stakeholders. Codes will also address any regional travel restrictions with participants.
Confirmation of the calendar comes after Lotto New Zealand yesterday (30 April) announced that its counters in dairies and convenience stores are being allowed to reopen after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, but other stores will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Alert Level 4 resulted in the lottery suspending all retail sales from 27 March, including Lotto NZ counters in pharmacies, dairies, petrol stations and supermarkets, though customers were still able to purchase tickets online.
Approved locations are due to open by tomorrow, but all other stores such as supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations will not be able to reopen until Alert Level 2 comes into effect. New Zealand’s government expects to downgrade to Alert Level 2 in two weeks’ time.