Racing one of the last left standing

Jonny Turner
Jonny Turner
As I write this, racing holds a unique position in the Australasian sporting landscape.

But the fast pace at which the response to the Covid-19 pandemic is moving may mean that position will have changed by the time the ink is printed on this paper, and again by the time it is delivered to readers.

Yesterday, racing was left as one of the few professional sports able to function after most of the sporting world had been shut down to stop the spread of the virus.

The moves by the three codes to keep racing functioning and income flowing to participants were made decisively and should be applauded.

They all seem very practical to me and, if anything, could be seen as reasonable by everyday standards.

Shut the gates and let the people watch at home.

Being on course is a wonderful experience but it is something owners and punters can forgo for the welfare of the sport and its participants.

Raising the jockeys’ weight scale was another key move.

The scale is archaic in nature given how much human physiques have grown over the past 50 years and the move suggests a permanent 2kg rise is in the interests of health and safety and is overdue.

But one move which I can not fathom is a decision by Trackside to lay off a number of its presenting staff and shut down their magazine-style programmes.

I attempted to contact Trackside bosses yesterday to confirm the exact details of their decisions and the motivations behind them, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

I have been told by a reliable source the move is a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Presenter Michael Guerin said as much in an interview on Australian radio yesterday afternoon.

The move baffles me.

Due to unfortunate and possibly deadly circumstances, racing has the position to fill voids left by major sports which have shut down.

And during this time, racing will rely solely on its broadcasting platforms to provide a revenue platform.

Therefore I can not understand why Trackside would ship off a bunch of its staff and shut down parts of its programming.

It seems ridiculous, irresponsible and without any care for the welfare of its employees and contractors or the state of the industry.

Major sports have shut down and this will impact TAB revenue.

However, all but a tiny amount of overseas racing is still being beamed across the country on Trackside and it has continued to be bet on.

Sports betting was a $632million slice of $2.25billion in total turnover during the 2019 financial year.

Significant, but not everything.

If racing in New Zealand or even Australia had shut down, then it would be understandable if Trackside made staffing changes.

However, as it stands, the action on the track is almost unaffected, but right now it looks like pretty poor form.

When I receive more information about Trackside’s decision I will keep readers informed.

Happy trails.

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