Racing NSW help country participants amid coronavirus pandemic

The Albury Racing Club will host a non-TAB meeting on April 4.

In light of the Coronavirus outbreak, community non-TAB meetings at Tocumwal Race Club and Hillston Jockey Club have been cancelled, putting pressure on Southern Districts trainers, jockeys and owners. 
Racing NSW and Albury Racing Club have since taken the forward approach of hosting a non-Tab meeting at Albury on April 4, with races specifically catering for lower class horses. 
The six-race-program will include Benchmark 45 events over 1175m and 1400m, benchmark 50 events over the 1000m and 1600m, a Class One Handicap over the 900m and a four-year-old and up Maiden over the 1000m
Albury Racing Club CEO Steve Hetherton was happy that his team could offer a race meeting for Southern Districts participants. 
“Racing NSW contacted us and asked if we would hold a meeting and we were happy to help out where we could and we are pleased that we are be able to run the meeting,” Hetherton said. 
“I think it’s vital to do what we can right now, we are all in precarious situation where we need to be helping each other out.”
Hetherton believes the decision highlighted Racing NSW’s proactive attitude towards the situation and their recognition of the inherent needs of racing participants. 
“It shows the direction of Racing NSW; no club is too big or small and they want to keep the industry running,” Hetherton said. 
Southern Districts trainer Trevor Sutherland reiterated the comments made by Hetherton, explaining that any extra race meeting is a positive at this stage of the Coronavirus outbreak. 
“Anything is better than nothing,” Sutherland said. 
“I’ll nominate for everywhere I can go before things get shut down and we can only hope Racing NSW keep putting on extra meetings.”
Sutherland was keeping a realistic approach towards the future, and admitted that racing in NSW and Australia could come to a dramatic halt. 
“We are going into unchartered waters,” Sutherland said.  
“At this stage, our priority should be to keep racing but this outbreak could very well stop everything and all racing.”
The Wagga trainer is of the belief that Racing NSW should consider utilising tracks like the Murrumbidgee Turf Club and Albury Racing Club as central racing hubs in short term.
Sutherland also suggested that the Equine Influenza outbreak of 2007/08 had given the industry the experience needed to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think Racing NSW should go to one track and put all the plans in place and keep racing at that one track,” Sutherland said. 
“We have a fair Ideas of how to do things after EI (Equine Influenza) and all steps that need to be put in place to stop the spread (of the coronavirus).”
Sutherland did have one gripe with the decision to race at Wagga on March 28 and Albury on April 4, highlighting that they should be showcased on Sky Racing. 
“They have stuck one meeting at Wagga and one on at Albury but why not just make them both TAB Two meetings,” Sutherland said.  
“We need all the racing and TAB turnover we can get, so it would make sense for them both to be TAB meetings.” 
This same sentiment was shared by Tumut trainer Kerry Weir, who suggested his owners would prefer the option to watch and bet on races, especially if they cannot visit the track or stables. 
“They should make them Tab Two races; I have owners who only want to watch their horses run and they aren’t going to want me to nominate if they can’t have a bet or watch their horse go around,” Weir said. 
“People want to watch their horses race and having non-TAB events, especially with so many meetings cancelled, makes no sense at all.”
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to take over Australia and the world, it will be interesting to see what other measures Racing NSW take to continue racing in the state.

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