Officials have rejigged Sydney’s race program for August after Rosehill became the third metropolitan racetrack enveloped by the latest local government area (LGA) lockdowns.
Warwick Farm and Canterbury were already affected by the additional restrictions, and Rosehill was added to that list of venues at midnight on Wednesday when the NSW government declared the Parramatta LGA was now subject to an Authorised Workers Order.
Only authorised workers within these LGAs can leave their local area for work, causing headaches for Warwick Farm and Rosehill trainers who need staff to care for their horses on race days.
Racing NSW has responded by offering a pool of stable staff to assist and chief steward Marc Van Gestel says they will continue to work through the issues to keep racing afloat.
“In terms of both Warwick Farm and Rosehill, they’re both now in local government areas that are subject to lockdown orders so essentially, the only people that can go to those tracks are people going there for animal welfare needs to work horses, feed them and care for them,” Van Gestel said on Sydney’s Sky Racing radio.
Racing NSW has announced venue changes for several meetings in the opening month of the new season, most significantly the Missile Stakes program on August 7 which has been shifted from Rosehill to Randwick.
The Canterbury meeting set down for Wednesday has been moved to the Kensington track, and Van Gestel says they are fortunate to have had only one Saturday program at Rosehill during the first weeks of August.
“With only having the one meeting there in the four-week period at Rosehill, that has not made it as challenging to keep our Saturday feature meetings going,” Van Gestel said.
Barrier trials are also affected and the session scheduled for Rosehill on Friday will be restricted to horses trained at the venue.
Jockeys won’t be able to ride in the heats and will be replaced by experienced trackwork riders and ex-jockeys, as was the case at the Warwick Farm trials last week.
Van Gestel said it was important for all staff to continue being diligent by wearing masks, social distancing and adhering to all COVID testing requirements.
“We have hundreds and hundreds of stable hands working in the Greater Sydney area and my stewards have been out at trackwork in the morning, at race days, barrier trials forcing compliance,” Van Gestel said.
“We’ve been very pleased with the manner of compliance we’re receiving and that’s been the reason COVID hasn’t infiltrated into the (racing) community.”
Randwick has now been left holding the fort in Covid lockdown