A Tuesday morning conference call involving NZ Thoroughbred Racing personnel and some 50 club representatives provided further clarity of the path towards the resumption of racing.
NZTR CEO Bernard Saundry (pictured) chaired the conference call, repeating earlier indications of the intense work taking place between the codes, RITA and Government in finding a way for racing through the current Covid-19 lockdown.
“We need to ascertain what will get us through to the end of the year and what 2021 looks like,” Saundry said. “Work has been done on a return to racing using July 1 as a target date and what areas we can confirm.”
While July 1 resumption can only be confirmed – or re-established – once a clearer picture emerges around any reduction in current level 4 restrictions, the need still exists to prepare for a “best” case eventuality. That will initially entail three race meetings per week, one in each of the designated regions, north, central and south.
Scenario to be factored include the possibility of specific areas remaining in lockdown, while anticipated travel restrictions under a level 3 or even lower guideline will force a reliance on venues with a high local equine concentration. Geographic spread means the South Island will need to be broken into sub-regions.
While lead-up trials will be necessary in the weeks after training facilities are reactivated, NZTR has an expectation that horses are directed to actual racing as soon as can be reasonably managed by their conditioners.
Flexibility will be key to an effective rollout of racing under this new model, which will include free racing, an acceptance that stakes will be flatter in endeavouring to return at least something material to as wide a group of stakeholders as possible, and the inevitably that some venues will be favoured ahead of others.
It is anticipated that a draft calendar for July will be released by the end of this week and for the first three months of the 2020-21 season next week. Once spring racing swings into gear, a rescheduled black-type schedule will have to be incorporated in the revised structure.
“We’re not trying to play this up,” Saundry told today’s racing club audience. “There will be a need for substantial change right across the network.
“It’s important to get racing back by as many as possible under a new model that will be quite different to what we were dealing with only three weeks ago.”