Not Business as Usual: Saundry

Bernard Saundry
NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry. Photo: Supplied

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry has cautioned all participants in racing to adhere to stringent government protocols in response to the spread of Covid-19 for both the good of the industry and the health and well-being of the nation. “For just the second time in history New Zealand is in a State of Emergency,” Saundry said. “This should be a clear indication that the government’s messages regarding the four-week lockdown need to be taken seriously. This is not a time for business as usual.

“Industry participants will be aware that this week, in view of the country moving to Level 4 on its COVID-19 alert system, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing made representation to Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to allow for the care of our horses to continue during this time. These steps were taken purely for animal welfare purposes.” Strict protocols were developed to allow for horses to be fed, watered, generally cared for and, in the case of those horses confined to boxes or yards, to be exercised.

Trainers are expected to take steps to protect themselves, their families, their staff and the general population by doing the right thing and heeding the instructions around the lockdown. “Many of our trainers have done just that, sending their horses out to spell and sending their staff home to isolate with their own support units,” Saundry said. “I congratulate them on proactively taking this step. “I will be very clear – training racehorses is not an essential business. The welfare of our animals, however, is and that does mean that in some cases those looking after them will be able to make application to MPI to allow them to continue to do so.”

Advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries confirms that training stables and centres, stud farms and agistment properties, where horses are in containment are listed as essential services under animal welfare considerations. However, time is of the essence for those businesses with over five staff members (including the owner), who are required to register with the Ministry for Primary Industries by 5pm on Friday.

To register, go to: MPI COVID19 Registration

The New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association have compiled a guide to filling out the form which can easily be adapted for breeding and training businesses here:

MPI Safe Practices Questionnaire COVID19

“If there are trainers who are in a situation where they have no alternative NZTR will provide assistance completing the necessary paperwork on MPI’s website,” Saundry said. “They should also be aware of the fact that under the State of Emergency, police, and in some cases army, will be ensuring anyone driving at this time has a valid reason. Breaching regulations can, and will, result in arrest,” he said.

While coping with immediate challenges, the thoroughbred code body has already begun work on what a new racing calendar might look like with fewer race dates in more localised regions close to horse populations. “Racing, when it finally does resume will not look like it currently does for the remainder of our season on our calendar,” Saundry said.

“It is expected that when the resumption does come it will be in three phases as the alert level drops, these will still include restricted movement and require protocols in place, and we are preparing for that. “It is also more than likely to include adjustments to stake levels. However this is in the future and when we get there is largely dependent upon people doing the right thing now. “We need people to take the COVID-19 threat seriously. Our sole focus at the moment should be ensuring the safety of those around us.”