Harness racing industry plans future after lockdown

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Harness racing has outlined what the industry will be like after the Covid-19 lockdown.

In an email sent to people involved in the industry, Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Peter Jensen and chairman Ken Spicer say they are working with other racing codes and the Government Racing Industry Transition Agency to return to racing as soon as practically possible.

"The first stage of this process is to design a racing ecosystem that reflects the likelihood that it will be some time before the Government brings New Zealand back to Alert Level 1," said Jensen and Spicer.

"There will be a need to reshape racing across all codes as we develop a clearer picture of what the full impact of Covid-19 will have on the TAB and subsequently funding to the codes.

"In light of this, HRNZ is vigorously reviewing all costs within the business, including employee/contractor payments."

The email outlines what will happen: 

  • Animal welfare, along with the safety of industry people and the wider public, must continue to be paramount. 
  • Racing on a public-excluded basis, as was before going into the lockdown. 
  • Racing will be conducted on a regional basis; this will see licensees unable to move between regions. 
  • Harness racing will be limited to five to six venues for a minimum of three months to allow the strict enforcement of the necessary protocols under alert levels 2 and 3. HRNZ is consulting with clubs/regions on regional racing/venues and will advise the industry on the shape of this once those decisions are finalised.
  • At this early stage, HRNZ has a target of returning to racing at the end of May or early in June. But there are a number variables that will affect this, the most obvious issues being when New Zealand moves out of alert level 4 and what is deemed allowable by the Government under alert level 3. 
  • Racing cannot resume until there is a sufficient pool of fit horses.
  • When racing resumes, the initial focus will be to provide weekly racing opportunities for the majority of the horse population.
  • The draft plan is focused on the period from June to September with further planning required to redesign the 2020/21 season.
  • Any feature/group races that were due to be held from March 24 through to the end of the 2019/20 season will now not be run and nor will they be rescheduled. This includes the Harness Jewels.
  • The exception to this is those races administered by the New Zealand Sires Stakes Board.

Said Jensen and Spicer: "We continue to work with the NZSSB on options for the rescheduling to the next season the races/series that they administer.

"This was a very difficult decision to make, however, it is important that we give trainers and owners some certainty as they make plans for their horses."

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