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Racing thrown a lifeline as training centres and stables deemed essential services

Racing has been thrown a lifeline by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ministry Of Primary Industries has announced that training centres, stables, agistment properties and stud farms where horses are in containment are considered essential services under animal welfare considerations.

Businesses with more than five people (including the owner) working at each business site, or who cannot achieve social distancing between staff, are required to register.

The businesses will need to answer 11 questions to provide assurance they have a plan and process to manage infection risks. Much of this will be covered in the protocols which will be distributed later today.

MPI has requested that all businesses which need to register do so by 5pm on Friday, 27 March 2020. Businesses will be able to continue operating while going through the registration process.

New Zealand Throughbred Racing, the NZ Trainers’ Association and the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association will be providing a template to assist with completing the paperwork later today.

The decision comes after a combined plea from NZTR and Harness Racing New Zealand which are confident training tracks and stables can remain safe places of work under strict protocols and that people in racing can look after horses without further spread of Covid-19.

The codes’ plan stipulated only essential working personnel would be allowed at training tracks and that all safety measures implemented by the MIP would be followed.

Ray Green … it will keep the game alive.Ray Green … it will keep the game alive.The news was welcomed by Lincoln Farms’ trainer Ray Green.

“Common sense has prevailed. We’ll be able to look after the horses better rather than just slinging them out in the paddock.

“And this will save a heap of jobs and potentially keep the whole game alive. We can continue to train the horses and have them ready to go when racing resumes.

“Otherwise it could have been another three or four months even when we got back to level three and that would have been disastrous for the industry.”

The decision will send a number of the country’s biggest stables into a spin as they have already sent their teams to agistment farms.

Tony Pike … the horses would have got stir crazy.Tony Pike … the horses would have got stir crazy.NZ Trainers’ Association president Tony Pike said he had cut his team from 80 to 25 and even though trainers now had the go ahead to work horses it was not the intention that full teams would be maintained.

“We’ve been given a small window of opportunity and everyone has to be very careful how we do this.

“I understand they’re working through the protocols now and that there won’t be any jumpouts or trials - it’s purely to enable us to exercise our horses.

“Obviously only a couple of horses will be allowed on the track at once as we’ll need to keep everyone as far apart as we can.”

Pike said he was very pleased MPI had allowed horses to stay in work as “we were running out of room for agistment and with no grass, and getting into winter, places would be seriously over-stocked.

“If the tracks hadn’t reopened we’d only have had half a dozen small paddocks for the ones left, and a walker, and the animals would quickly have become stir crazy.”