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Racing takes radical steps to ensure industry does not crumble


Stock photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Stock photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile


Stock photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The news that Irish racing will continue behind closed doors has been met with different opinions, but those within the industry are breathing a sigh of relief that life goes on, albeit in much different circumstances.

Had racing been cancelled until May as it was in Britain, a host of trainers would have been letting staff go this morning and the decision to continue is motivated by the necessity to maintain employment in the industry.

The Government seems keen for racing to continue and for jobs to be retained; had they wished to pull the plug then that would have been the case, but stricter protocols will be enforced to ensure the safety of all involved.

Race meetings will continue to be limited to a number of key personnel like stable staff, jockeys and trainers - owners are not permitted to attend - with strict protocols around social distancing and sanitisation, too.

Trainers are not allowed into the weighing room, they must drop their jockey silks in a bag at the door and collect their saddle at the same door post-race, while there is no waiting around once their runners have raced.

Overflow facilities are available for jockeys where they are spread more than three metres apart, while there were no jockeys in the weighing room between races at Down Royal or Wexford on Tuesday.

Robbie Power posted a picture from his car on Twitter after riding the opening winner at Down Royal as he awaited his next ride an hour later and this is now the norm at racecourses with the safety of their cars advised between races.

A rider who only rides in the first race won't see a jockey riding in the last; once their job is done they move on, with shower, sauna, catering and television facilities no longer accessible at racecourses. When the work is done, you're out of there.

Racing benefits hugely by the space they are afforded for social distancing and, with huge fears over whether things will ever be the same, should racing cease, Government procedures are being followed to the letter of the law amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have carried out risk assessments according to each individual racecourse facility, and some fixtures may be subject to greater restrictions and limitations to ensure social distancing is easily achievable and maintained," said Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland CEO, yesterday.

The myth of racing gobbling up ambulances and doctors is also just that with the Order of Malta and Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board doctors released immediately to serve elsewhere as needed so every box is being ticked.

With lives at stake, this decision to continue racing was not taken lightly and those involved will act accordingly during difficult times as the show goes on.

Irish Independent