Racing and training continue in Victoria

Craig Brennan
Robbie Griffiths, head of the Trainers Assn, says racing is well-equipped to handle virus protocols

Victorian trainer Robbie Griffiths has welcomed the decision to keep racing and training going during the coronavirus crisis.

The Racing Victoria board gave the green light for horse activities under strict conditions following a meeting on Monday.

RV chief executive Giles Thompson said the decision to continue racing, and training, had not been taken lightly.

"We make it knowing Victorian racing will continue to do everything to remain compliant with all current directives, guidelines and advice established by the Victorian government on the advice of the chief health officer," Thompson said.

"Throughout this period we have maintained two clear objectives; to protect the health and wellbeing of industry staff, participants and indeed the wider community; and to provide a framework that allowed 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.

"The thoroughbred racing industry generates over $3.2 billion economic activity within the state of Victoria and supports the employment of a vast array of people including trainers, stable staff, jockeys, breeders, vets, farriers, float drivers, administrators, officials and many more.

"We won't rest on our laurels though.

"We will continually review this decision in consultation with government and health authorities."

Victorian racing has been crowd-free starting with the meeting at The Valley on March 13 after the Australian government's restrictions on social gatherings were first introduced amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

Other measures since include compulsory temperature checks, the banning of jockeys competing in Victoria who have travelled interstate since March 17 via commercial plane and the isolation of 21 jockeys into a group which has been excluded from riding in trackwork and trials.

Griffiths, who is president of the Australian Trainers' Association, said he feared the ramifications should racing, and training, been shut down.

He said the ATA had worked proactively with RV, racing minister Martin Pakula and other industry stakeholders in a bid to keep racing going through difficult times.

"The difference in our business against others is that we are a massive industry that employs so many, but we've got two really big positives," Griffiths said.

"Horses don't transmit the virus and when we work with horses we are always five or six metres apart from each other.

"We can abide by the protocols a lot easier than other industries."

Griffiths also praised RV's role in proactively working to keep racing when many other sports, including the AFL, had closed down.

"We sacrificed crowds at two big meetings, the William Reid and All-Star Mile, early on so I think we've shown to the government that we are being vigilant in what we are doing," Griffiths said.