Racing Victoria (RV) advises that racing will resume in Victoria tomorrow – Friday, 27 March – following confirmation that licensed jockey Mark Zahra has tested negative for COVID-19.
Race meetings at Warrnambool [day] and Pakenham [twilight] will proceed as programmed under the strict COVID-19 protocols governing the conduct of racing in accordance with all the current directives, guidelines and advice established by the Victorian Government on the advice of the Chief Health Officer.
Zahra has advised that, whilst he has been cleared to resume riding immediately; he is not booked for any rides until the Golden Mile meeting at Bendigo on Saturday, 28 March.
The restrictions imposed tonight on all licensed flat jockeys from participating in trackwork have been lifted for the members of the ‘Gold Team’. The protocol precluding the 21 jockeys in the ‘Green Team’, including Zahra, from participating in trackwork remains in place as part of Victorian racing’s ongoing measures to segregate riders.
A standing order remains for all industry participants to remain at home if they are feeling unwell, are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with a confirmed case. No other riders are currently displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson said: “We’re really pleased for Mark that his test has come back negative. This situation has placed undue pressure on Mark through no fault of his own and I want to again publicly thank and acknowledge the professional and responsible manner in which he has acted.
“Mark’s negative test paves the way for racing to resume in Victoria tomorrow and for this we are extremely grateful. We are acutely aware of the incredible hardship that many Australians are facing as at this time through the loss of their jobs, which is why we are continuing to work so hard to protect the livelihoods of all those within Victorian racing who depend on it.
“Victorian racing supports the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs through the employment of a vast array of people including trainers, stable staff, jockeys, breeders, vets, farriers, float drivers, administrators, officials and many more. At the centre of our sport is the horse and these people provide the critical care and attention that our horses require on a daily basis.
“In announcing the resumption of racing, I want to assure the Victorian community that racing will continue to operate under strict biosecurity protocols and where required act decisively, as we did when suspending racing yesterday, should there be any risk to the health of our industry stakeholders and the wider community.”
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 cancellation of official flat trials and the restriction of jump-outs (unofficial trials) to local horses only at each of the state’s training centres.
- 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 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 banning of all licensed and registered participants, essential staff and essential personnel who enter the state after 6pm on 26 March 2020 from attending a race meeting, training centre, racecourse or Licensed Premises for at least 14 days, irrespective of where they are licensed, registered or their primary place of residence.
- 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 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.