Thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing will continue in New Zealand despite the growing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But, all events will be closed to all except for essential personnel.
The decision was made by the governing bodies of the three racing codes, in cooperation with TAB NZ, and comes into effect from March 18 to April 13. TAB NZ is the governing body for racing and wagering in New Zealand.
As per the decision, the only people allowed to attend meetings will be jockeys and drivers competing in the races. In addition, trainers with runners participating, their stable and kennel staff, and important raceday personnel are allowed in as well.
“The health and well-being of our participants and the wider community are of paramount importance at this time,” Peter Jensen, Chief Executive of NZ Harness Racing, explained. “Public health is the number one priority and these restrictions will continue to be kept under constant review,” he added.
In addition, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR), with the help of the Jockey Association, recently issued an order saying riders must not accept engagements that involves travel between the countrys north and south islands.
“We have the support of our recognized industry organizations—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,” Bernard Saundry, NZTR chief executive, said. “We recognize that these are extraordinary circumstances and they require extraordinary action,” he added.
Meanwhile TAB NZ will continue to broadcast racing on Trackside TV stations as well as on its website. But, it will limit its on-course operations to minimal broadcasting facilities, without Tote services provided on-site.
“The key priority for the industry is to ensure the well-being of all our staff, participants, supporters and the community, as well as our animals,” Glenda Hughes, chief executive of Greyhound NZ, said.
This move would make New Zealand one of the only countries wherein some form of top-level sport will continue. In the UK, the horseracing sector initially aimed to organize all events behind closed doors, but cancelled all meetings until the end of April at least.
Most other sporting events worldwide have been forced into suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.