Racing on tenterhooks over COVID-19 test

Rosehill racecourse
Officials hope crowd-free racing can continue at Rosehill amid strict biosecurity protocols.

The rich Sydney autumn carnival is on a knife edge and Queensland’s winter extravaganza has already been scuppered because of the coronavirus.

Queensland authorities on Thursday pulled the pin on the rich feature races over winter amid the uncertainty surrounding the sport.

Other sports have already been postponed or have cancelled their seasons.

Group One racing is set to continue at Rosehill on Saturday but that is still dependent on the results of a test on Melbourne jockey Mark Zahra who travelled on a commercial flight on March 12 as did a person who has since tested positive.

Victorian racing bosses are still waiting on the results of his test after suspending races on Wednesday after they learned of his plight.

Jockeys Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry have tested negative to COVID-19 after flying on the same charter plane as Zahra from Melbourne to Sydney on Saturday.

Both rode in Melbourne on Friday night with a group of riders hiring the plane under Racing Victoria protocols regarding jockeys.

Even though Berry and Bowman have been cleared, if Zahra should be positive other participants at Rosehill may have to be tested although the meeting was held under strict biosecurity.

Jockeys from Perth, Tasmania and Queensland also rode against Zahra in Melbourne on March 14.

Racing NSW says as always it will adhere to government instructions.

Racing Queensland chief executive Brendan Parnell said scrapping the multi-million dollar winter carnival was the only course of action given it was unlikely any meeting could be held with spectators in the near future, which would cause major economic losses.

“Given the circumstances, it is the right decision to abandon our carnivals,” Parnell said.

“Our carnivals are used as the shop front to showcase our codes and to attract patrons, and in this current environment, it is not responsible.”

Queensland will follow NSW and Victoria by separating the state into different areas with jockeys and trainers only allowed within their precincts.

RQ will wait until Friday morning to decide whether Saturday’s Doomben meeting goes ahead.

RV chief executive, Giles Thompson said he understood the wait for the result of Zahra’s test was trying and people should be supporting the jockey.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we await the result of the test, in particular for Mark who has been placed under undue pressure through no fault of his own,” Thompson said.

“I know that the best wishes of the industry are with him and I want to again thank and publicly acknowledge the professional and responsible manner in which he has acted.

“As I have stated on numerous occasions we have two clear objectives; to protect the health and wellbeing of industry staff, participants and indeed the wider community; and to provide a framework that allows for the safe continuation of Victorian racing for the 25,000 people whose livelihoods depend on it and for our horses which require ongoing care and attention.”