NHA asks for horse racing to be allowed during level 4 national lockdown

The horse racing industry is raising concerns that the lockdown has impacted on its finances.
The horse racing industry is raising concerns that the lockdown has impacted on its finances.
Image: Darren Stewart /Gallo Images

The horse racing industry is pleading with government to allow the sector to resume operations under "controlled" conditions during the Level 4 coronavirus national lockdown.

According to the National Horseracing Authority, failure to resume the business could see more than 60 000 jobs being negatively impacted.

"The industry is asking the National Command Council to give permission for the industry which is on the verge of collapse to resume controlled closed horse racing during Level 4 as the only way to stave off massive jobs losses, closures of horse training and racing facilities and to avoid potential health hazards that would result from mass euthanizing or abandoning of distressed horses," said the National Horseracing Authority chief executive Vee Moodley.

"... if government allows closed racing during level 4 as proposed by the industry regulating body, this will save the majority of the 60 000 jobs in the industry. Without competitive racing, the industry is not generating income to pay salaries for personnel needed to care for the horses, training and racecourses.

“We are in dire situation as an industry because all the lost revenue impacts directly at least six people who look after the horses before, during and after each race. Our plea to our government at this stage is not for the industry to operate as business as usual, but to do the least to save jobs and horses.

"We are asking for closed racing which will involve about 65 people per racecourse and about 15 minutes of racing per day. That is all it will take to avoid the collapse of this industry at this stage,” said Moodley.He estimated that trainers have lost about R30 million per month plus 15% reduction in business operation."

About 4 500 grooms have lost about 1% of Stakes of R30 million and loss of income from incentives scheme, jockeys have lost 10% of stakes of estimated at R30 million per month plus R3.5 million in riding fee monthly.

"The most vulnerable group that has been most affected by this lockdown are breeders who breed horses for racing, which is the most labour-intensive part of the industry where some 12 are created for each R1 million expended. If there is no racing, there is no demand for the horse and therefore no money accruing to breeders,” says Hazel Kayiya, NHA’s executive: Racing Administrator.

She added that the loss of income has led to a 20% spike in the number of horses being euthanised with between 300 to 400 horse currently facing the fate every month, as well as, horse abandonments, resulting in the loss of jobs and bloodlines.

The NHA expects the number of euthanized horses to increase by 50% per month if racing continues to be banned in SA. The NHA has proposed that horse racing be restarted under strict conditions with eight races of approximately two minutes each per day between 12h00 - 17h00, and all racing to be held behind closed doors with no spectators."

The races will be broadcast under normal channels both domestically and to 42 other countries internationally."

"Approximately 65 persons are required per race meeting and these people are located at various areas within the racecourse, applying strict physical distancing protocols."

These includes trainers, jockeys, grooms, officials and staff deemed necessary to host a race meeting safely and successfully; all Covid-19 health and safety protocols to be always followed, including observance of guidelines for physical distancing, sanitation and hygiene, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment as determined by the National Department of Health."

South Africa is the 8th most important horse racing market out of 65 countries, and this is significant for horse export, and profitably television rights. We have applied to government for financial assistance, and we are told that is under consideration. But the partial opening of industry for closed racing that we are proposing, and which poses no health risk at all, will do away with the need for government financial relief,” added Moodley. ​

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