Racing industry prepares for return to track

Australian racing has become a salvation for many craving live sport during coronavirus lockdown.

And with a move to level 3 approaching next week, racing in New Zealand is now one step closer to a return for punters.

Like most in the racing industry, Canterbury harness trainer Mark Jones is raring to get back to racing.

"I think if you asked anybody now to race for $1000, everyone would be there tomorrow," Jones has told Newshub.

Tomorrow may be too soon, but a revised draft plan released by the Racing Industry Transition Agency could see racing return on May 11 for greyhounds, followed by harness racing on May 29, then thoroughbreds on July 3. 

"It gives us the ability to aim, as an industry, towards getting everyone back to work and getting some revenue coming back in the gates," says chairman Dean McKenzie. "Getting the 17,000-odd people that make up the racing industry back to work."

A return to racing by those dates would involve meeting the safety requirements of various Government departments. 

The proposed measures would include regionalising racing, no crowds and a reduction in the number of racing venues from 36 to 12.

"The best measure for that is what's happening across the ditch," McKenzie adds. "They've worked through the pandemic in all three codes."

Like many standardbred trainers, Jones has the advantage of being able to lightly work his horses, but every minute they're not able to race, it's money down the drain.

All the more reason to hope the proposal avoids any whips being cracked and racing can resume.

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