Monday, 27 April 2020 10:30

Racing leads way during extraordinary times

Racing leads way during extraordinary times
PETER GLEESON AS COVID-19’s insidious tentacles impinge upon every facet of our lives, killing people and costing jobs, there is one shining example of an industry that has beaten the odds to continue and even flourish during these extraordinary times. Racing has not only continued in every mainland state and territory, it has provided millions of Australians with much needed sanity as cabin fever takes hold. All at a time when the anti-racing lobby has never been more active or unscrupulous in their attempts to close down thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. The fact that racing has continued in Australia during the coronavirus crisis is testimony to the diligence and discipline of an industry that is much maligned. For too long, racing has been the convenient punching bag for the Greens, animal activists and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. They have waged a jihad against all sections of the industry, and to be fair, in some instances, this has been justified, especially around animal welfare deficiencies. In response, racing has enacted sensible, proactive reforms, 
ensuring that horses and greyhounds are now looked after from cradle to grave. This is not good enough for the activists. They want the racing industry closed, a zealotry, foolish goal. They use blackmail to stop sponsors and partners from being associated with the industry. In Queensland they have tried to sneak into dog meetings at Albion Park, Ipswich and Capalaba — dressed in black and white like trainers — to get incriminating photographs during the coronavirus crisis. Yet when confronted with the coronavirus, racing bosses throughout Australia swiftly introduced social distancing protocols and hardline measures aimed at ensuring the industry was not shut down. They deployed strict enforcement rules, banning spectators and temperature-testing every person who walks onto the track. It has enabled racing to continue, protecting tens of thousands of employees and participants from the dole queue. The racing industry took the attitude that until health bosses and government made a decision to close them down, they’d do everything within their power to continue. This innovative approach is being demonstrated best at Greyhounds NSW. It set up a zonal system, where trainers are only allowed to race in their home zone, to limit travel. Dogs are put into the boxes differently, at staggered times, to ensure social distancing. Trainers must head home as soon as their dogs race.
GRNSW chief Tony Mestrov has a daily blog for owners and trainers, answering every question to allay fears. This open door policy by racing officialdom is a breath of fresh air from previous eras, when control bodies had more secrets than the Kremlin. During this incredibly challenging time, with people losing jobs and uncertainty affecting mental health, racing has provided the entertainment and distraction that so many crave. The verdict is in. Racing has never been more popular. Wagering is at record levels. It well and truly deserves to be an ongoing part of our sporting landscape.


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