Racing Victoria (RV) Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, has today issued the following update regarding the immediate future of Victorian racing in light of further developments in the national fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic:
“The Racing Victoria Board met this morning to consider the Federal and State Government directives and medical advice communicated over the past 24 hours.
“Since restrictions on social gatherings were first announced 10 days ago, Racing Victoria, with the support and cooperation of all our industry stakeholders, has acted swiftly and decisively to implement protocols that allowed for the continuation of racing.
“Throughout this period we have maintained two clear objectives; to protect the health and wellbeing of industry staff, participants and indeed the wider community; and to provide a framework that allowed for the safe continuation of Victorian racing for the 25,000 people whose livelihoods depend on it and for our horses which require ongoing care and attention.
“The thoroughbred racing industry generates over $3.2 billion economic activity within the state of Victoria and supports the employment of a vast array of people including trainers, stable staff, jockeys, breeders, vets, farriers, float drivers, administrators, officials and many more. It is a major and important contributor to the state of Victoria, particularly throughout country and regional areas.
“Racing is a non-contact sport where horse handling requires social distancing, and one that has demonstrated previously through the equine influenza outbreak of 2007 that it can successfully implement quarantine measures.
“These are unprecedented times and we have rightly taken unprecedented actions over the past fortnight around banning crowds, locking down training centres, introducing compulsory temperature checks for people entering courses, isolating and restricting the movement of jockeys and abandoning our picnic racing season, to ensure that we provide the safest environment possible for the continuation of Victorian racing.
“In addition, our racing clubs, training centres and individual trainers have also implemented strict protocols to mitigate risks within their work environments and to manage the health and wellbeing of their staff, whilst ensuring that all our horses continue to receive the great care and attention that they are used to.
“The Board gave appropriate consideration as to whether racing should continue in light of the updated restrictions and advice over the past 24 hours.
“Having considered all the relevant information, including the strict protocols currently in place across the industry, the latest Government and health advice, the importance of protecting the livelihoods of the hardworking men and women of our industry and the ongoing care and welfare of our horses, we have determined that racing and training will continue in Victoria until otherwise advised.
“We’re acutely aware that our horses require daily and appropriate hands-on management whether we are racing or not and we equally know that they thrive upon exercise and the daily routine they are afforded in their training environments. This has been an important factor in our considerations.
“The decision to continue racing and training is not one that has been taken lightly, but we make it knowing that Victorian racing will continue to do everything to remain compliant with all the current directives, guidelines and advice established by the Victorian Government on the advice of the Chief Health Officer.
“We won’t rest on our laurels though. We will continually review this decision in consultation with Government and health authorities to ensure that we are acting in not only the best interests of all of the staff and stakeholders in our industry, but their families, friends and indeed the wider community.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for all stakeholders within our industry to ensure they abide by both the Government directives and our strict industry protocols and that they ensure that they maintain good hygiene, practice social distancing and self-isolate when required.
“To that end, I again implore anyone feeling unwell or whom may have been in contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case to not come to work, to ensure they self-isolate and to notify the relevant authorities immediately including the Department of Health and our Stewards.
“At this time, our fate continues to be in our hands, but apathy will quickly bring racing to a halt in this state. As an industry we must continue to work together and support one another as we navigate these challenging times to the best of our ability.”
In making the announcement that Victorian racing will continue, Mr Thompson explained that various conversations will continue today and across the coming days with Governments and stakeholders to understand and address the impacts that new measures may place on individual participation within Victoria and interstate.
Mr Thompson encouraged all industry stakeholders to keep abreast of the latest industry updates and advice at racingvictoria.com.au/covid19 and to consult the relevant Government websites at health.vic.gov.au and coronavirus.vic.gov.au for accurate information.
He also again encouraged all licensed and registered industry participants to avail themselves if required of Victorian racing’s free, independent counselling service, Stableline, which is available to them 24/7 on 1300 520 122.
Racing Victoria commenced the introduction of strict protocols to allow for the continuation of racing in a safe environment from Friday, 13 March and has continued to expand these since. The protocols currently in place in Victorian racing include:
- The banning of owners, members, the general public, non-broadcast media and non-essential staff from attending all Victorian race meetings. Only the following people are permitted to attend with all subject to enhanced operating protocols, hygiene and social distancing measures:
- Licensed jockeys engaged to compete at the meeting
- Licensed trainers with runners engaged at the meeting
- Registered stable staff of trainers with runners engaged at the meeting with trainers asked to minimise the number of staff in attendance
- Essential raceday officials and staff
- Official broadcaster (Racing.com) and official photographer (Racing Photos)
- The banning of owners, media and the public from attending training centres and trackwork, including trials and jump-outs, with only licensed trainers, registered stablehands, licensed jockeys, RV officials, club staff and essential personnel (vets, farriers, medical staff) permitted to attend.
- Compulsory temperature checks by medical staff at the entrance to each Victorian race meeting with those displaying a temperature of 37.6 or above not be permitted to enter and/or compete. This measure is also being rolled out across training centres and individual stables.
- The banning of jockeys competing in Victoria who have travelled to/from the state since 17 March 2020 via a commercial flight while they complete 14 days self-isolation. Only jockeys who have travelled to/from the state via private vehicle or charter flight are permitted to continue competing.
- The isolation of 21 jockeys into a group known as the ‘Green Team’ who are only permitted to compete at race meetings; are excluded from participating in trackwork and must isolate themselves wherever possible.
- The abandonment of the remainder of the 2019-20 picnic (amateur) racing season which serves as a celebration of racing and a place for communities to gather within country Victoria. Picnic racing is not scheduled to recommence until October 2020.
- The closure of the RV offices and classes for RV’s Apprentice Jockey Training Program until at least 13 April 2020 with staff working remotely where possible.