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Bernard Saundry … “Training racehorses is not an essential business but the welfare of our animals is.”

Racing boss warns of fewer meetings and lower stakes in post Covid-19 recovery

Work has already begun on a post COVID-19 racing calendar and thoroughbred racing boss Bernard Saundry warns it will look nothing like the present one and will probably see a drop in stakes.

Saundry also made it clear that while the Ministry Of Primary Industries has deemed stables and training tracks to be essential services during the coronavirus lockdown, it is not “business as usual.”

Saundry says that when racing finally does resume it will not look like what was scheduled for the remainder of the season.

“It is expected that it will be in three phases as the alert level drops, these will still include restricted movement and require protocols to be in place, and we are preparing for that.

“We have already begun work on what our new calendar might look like with fewer race dates in more localised regions close to horse populations.

“It is also more than likely to include adjustments to stake levels.”

In an interview with Trackside host Jason Tan, Saundry said: “Clearly there will be some tough times ahead.

“We’ve been spending money we haven’t earned and there will need to be change. In 12 month’s time this business will be very different and we’ll need Government support and robust and new thinking on how we can run racing.

“However this is in the future and when we get there is largely dependent upon people doing the right thing now.

“Training racehorses is not an essential business but the welfare of our animals is.

“NZTR made representation to MPI to allow for the care of our horses to continue but these steps were taken purely for animal welfare purposes.

“To enable this to happen strict protocols were developed to allow for horses to be fed, watered, generally cared for and, in the case of those horses confined to boxes and yards, to be exercised.

“The assumption was that where possible trainers would endeavour to take steps to protect themselves, their families, their staff and the general population by doing the right thing and heeding the instructions around the lockdown.

“Many of our trainers have done just that, sending their horses out to spell and sending their staff home to isolate with their own support units. I congratulate them on proactively taking this step.

“We need people to take the COVID-19 threat seriously. Our sole focus at the moment should be ensuring the safety of those around us.”