January 20, 2022

So now you want to race!

3 min read

Covid-19 is no laughing matter but it’s funny to read social media post from the same individual(s) who called for the sport to closing down of our tracks 5 weeks ago now chiming back in that the track owners should “re-open” the venue and test all horsemen and women prior to allowing them to race!

Now please excuse me if you heard someone laughing in the background..

I’m not going to stand here and tell you I wouldn’t mind going back to racing but testing horse people before you test health workers or important essential workers is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

If we are to learn and move forward we need to examine what is currently working with some of the major tracks in the USA try to implement similar measures on this side of the boarder.

Horse racing is unique in sport because there is no cost to get into the races and the wagering isn’t driven by those who attend the races live it’s driven from online wagering.

This is not to say we don’t need the fans on hand as they support the food and beverage aspect of the race track but knowing we can be empty in the stands and still generate 5-6 million in wagering on a single card like the folks at Fonner Park has everyone chomping at the bit.

Racetracks potentially generate millions in economic impact for all the surrounding city’s that support the game.

Racing in Ontario will not returned based on an opinion to test everyone in the sport. Ontario currently has a protocol in place that forbids large gatherings of 5 people or more.

How are “we” as an industry going to race if a single race with 9 horses has the potential for 10-25 people being in that paddock area?

At a track like Mohawk we had the following in place and WEG still did the proper thing in my opinion which was suspend the live cards.

Backstretch Protocols
(1) Only essential licensed personnel are allowed in through the stable gate. This means no visitors or guests including those who are accompanied by essential personnel.

(2) We had a health check station at point of entry which may have been even better with the use of a thermal gun that took temperatures upon arrive. ( Something to consider)

(3) The grandstands were closed to all patrons which included owners of those horses racing on that live card.

 (4) Maybe we need to establish a color-coded wrist band system with a different color representing each day of the week. Currently we had a 7 day window if you got past the first night with a colored sticker on our license but imagine 8 weeks of stickers piling up it would probably look like your rare license plate where nobody every takes the old one off.

(5) Provide additional hand washing and/or hand sanitizing stations inside the paddock I can’t recall seeing any of those on my last visit.

(6) No assembling of any personnel in any areas and all personnel should practice social distancing.. Yes we all have friends in the game but to make it work you race them and get out as soon as possible so the next group can do the same thing.

I believe those looking after our industry understand how important the return to racing is not only for the horses but also for the welfare of the industry across the board.

Right now our hopes of getting back to the sport sit in the hands of the health advisors and the provincial gov’t.

If and when the restrictions are lifted (large gatherings) I’m sure we will be one of the first live sports to get back at it in Ontario but we we need to ” flatten the curve” of covid-19 and the Government to loosen the restrictions on gatherings to a number larger than 5 and we the horse people to be respective of any security measures that are put in place.

We can do this.

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