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Why racing will continue on… for now


Thoroughbred racing will continue to soldier on amid the coronavirus crisis.

With the AFL making the decision to postpone the 2020 season after just one round, and the NRL opting to stick on, all eyes are on the racing industry.

In the middle of all the uncertainty, racing has gone ahead behind closed doors and will continue to do so until a completely necessary stop is placed on the sport.

Martin Pakula, Victoria’s sports minister, explained the reasons why the races have endured as opposed to the AFL.

“The difference is, first of all, the AFL is a national competition which involves the substantial movement of a large number of human beings around the country,” Pakula said on SEN’s Whateley.

“Gillon (McLachlan) and the Commission have made a call about the need for it to come to a conclusion.

“Racing is very contained. There’s very strong biosecurity and social distancing measures that have been put in place.

“It is not a sport that is necessarily about having large crowds of people at the venue. It can effectively be carried on remotely provided that strong social distancing measures can be put in place.”

Pakula touched on the importance of giving the public something to follow when all other sports are on hold but was realistic in knowing that the severity of the pandemic will at one point force racing to close its doors.

“People can continue to have something to watch, have a bet, have some kind of diversion during their daily lives,” he added.

“I don’t expect that it’s going to continue indefinitely. I think at some point it will come to a stop, but right now it’s not required to.

“There have been measures put in place about the social distancing of jockeys.

“Caulfield and other tracks stopped crowds from coming in before they were obliged to do so.

“Country Racing has already said that the May races in Warrnambool, if it does go ahead, will be crowd-free.

“There’s a lot of work being done.”

The industry as a whole, and particularly in the state of Victoria, is vital to the employment of many and while there is still work available, those people have every right to earn a buck or two.

“It is a sport that employs around 25,000 people around Victoria, most of those in regional communities,” Pakula said further.

“You’re not talking about highly paid athletes. There’s a handful of jockeys of course that are, but by and large, a lot of the industry are week-to-week.

“In an environment where even for another week they are able to earn a living, and there’s no requirement from the Chief Health Officer that they stop, I think they are within their rights to continue.”

Racing Victoria released a statement on Sunday evening that they “have a range of meetings planned” so they can “consider the appropriate advice from health authorities and our medical experts” on whether the sport should continue to go ahead.

There are no meetings in Victoria today but there are races scheduled at Geelong on Tuesday and Sandown on Wednesday.

Racing in New South Wales takes place at Goulburn and Murwillumbah today.

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