The current Covid-19 pandemic is hitting the racing industry where it hurts the most, with the western and central district racing associations left with limited opportunities.
After a plethora of meetings were abandoned due to the Coronavirus crisis, grass roots participants throughout Western and Central NSW have now been left scrounging around for races, with unprecedented nominations at country meetings.
This was highlighted best today, with Friday’s Orange Cup Country Showcase meeting receiving an astounding 274 nominations and Coonabarabran’s six-race Saturday meeting receiving 192 nominations.
Even the Forbes picnic meeting scheduled for Saturday received 91 nominations, which is unheard of for a six-race-program offering only $5,000 of prizemoney per race.
These regions then go six days without a meeting, with participants who miss out on a race this weekend, forced to either not race at all, or travel to the South East and Southern District in search of races.
In what has become glaringly obvious to Racing NSW participants and pundits, there just not enough racing to go around.
The same issue will apply to Southern District racing participants shortly, with 125 nominations for Corowa’s six-race-program on Saturday and a huge 215 nominations for Wagga’s eight-race-program on Sunday.
Southern District trainers will then go 10 days without a race meeting, forcing them to race in the South East, or venture West, putting pressure on already stressed racing associations.
With Racing NSW implementing some new meetings to account for abandoned meetings, the question has to be asked, is Racing NSW doing enough for country participants?
Since March 15 and the federal government’s decision to limit public gatherings, Racing NSW has seen 13 country and picnic meetings abandoned through either Covid-19 or inclement weather.
In that same time, only two additional meetings have been held, with Wagga holding a picnic meeting (March 28) and Albury running a non-TAB meeting (April 4).
In the next two months, countless other country and picnic meetings have been abandoned, yet only two more meetings have been added to the racing calendar, with both Forbes (April 18) and Dubbo (May 9) picking up picnic meetings.
This certainly won’t help country jockeys, who will be fighting tooth and nail for rides, nor the horses who enter for the picnics and are left jockey-less due to a lack of amateur jockeys.
There is an obvious differential that means horses in country NSW will not race and owners and trainers will be forced to make the hard decision to either spell or move on horses in their stables.
If this does happen and when racing returns to normal, there will be an outcry for strong fields and the industry will wonder where these horses, owners, trainers and even jockeys have gone.