Horses likely to lose fitness with industry in limbo

Graeme Anderson with the two young starts of his stable American Lightning (left) and Spirit of...
Graeme Anderson with the two young starts of his stable American Lightning (left) and Spirit of St Louis at Mosgiel yesterday.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Horse trainers are being forced to put their top talent out into the paddock and have had to turn their backs on training on the beach.

The racing industry had tried to keep going under the Covid-19 outbreak, first racing behind closed doors, but it was forced to give up when the lockdown was announced.

But horses still have to be fed and yearlings needed to be broken in, so trainers were still kept busy.

There are now fears over how long it will take to get horses fit when the lockdown does end.

Wingatui trainer Shane Anderton said the White Robe Lodge training stable had got rid of many of its horses, returning them to their owners or moving them off the property.

They had about 40 horses, but had dropped to fewer than a dozen. Those left had simply moved to the paddock and were being fed. A couple of staff remained and lived on the property, so they could look after the horses.

Other staff have gone on leave. He said it was difficult to move the horses away quickly, as everyone wanted horse floats and trucks at the same time.

Harness trainer Amber Hoffman has also put most of her horses out into the paddocks, although she has some of her younger horses being broken in, so they were still being worked.

"We have still got to feed them every day and we have a couple of people doing that. They [horses] are going to lose a bit of fitness," she said.

"We are coming into a busy time of the year with winter racing at Forbury Park. So that is a bit gutting, but really there is nothing we can do about it."

Her stable at Waikouaiti was close to the beach and she often trained her horses on the sand. But she had been advised to not train them on the beach, as if there was an accident then too many people would be impacted in trying to help.

She admitted the stable and industry was in a holding pattern and was waiting to hear something in the next 10 days.

Harness trainer Graeme Anderson said mixed messages were coming from the industry, which he was finding frustrating. Things were changing from day to day on what could and could not be done. But he said that was the case in everything.

He had put horses in the paddock and training had been cut back. Those trainers who had their own tracks were at an advantage over those who used public tracks which were closed, he said.

Horses would lose fitness he admitted, but everyone was in the same boat, so it was best to get on with it. Financially he was fine but other trainers will find it tough.

He had two of the top young horses in the country in American Lightning and Spirit Of St Louis who had some big races planned, including the Harness Jewels, but that was all up in the air now.

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