Ballina Jockey Club is operating under strict guidelines from Racing NSW. Photo file.
Ballina Jockey Club is operating under strict guidelines from Racing NSW. Photo file.

Ballina braces for racing suspension

PLANS for the next Northern Rivers race meeting at Ballina will push ahead despite the industry operating on a knife edge during the coronavirus pandemic.

Racing NSW confirmed two of its participants that had travelled on a charter flight on March 21 with an interstate participant may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Both were tested with the results coming back negative today.

Ballina is scheduled to race on April 7 but will be at the mercy of people within the industry testing positive to the virus in the coming week.

Jockeys have already been split into three NSW regions where they will restricted to race.

“The problem now is how easy this could happen again and keep happening,” Ballina Jockey Club general manager Matthew Bertram said.

“I think we’ll need some contingency plans moving forward; if someone tests positive now I assume that will be a 14-day shutdown.

“If the metro or southern region shut down we could still race here and vice versa, though.

“There are strict protocols in place now and this case happened before things tightened up.

“The industry learnt a lot about biosecurity during the equine flu and we’re as well placed as we can be to continue.”

Horse racing is one of the only sports still operating and has been restricted to jockeys, trainers and essential staff at its meetings.

Border restrictions will keep some of the better horses in Queensland while 68 jockeys have nominated to race in the northern NSW region.

Bertram is keen to see what the fields look like at the TAB meeting at Grafton next Tuesday.

“The depth of horses will not be as good, but that’s okay,” he said.

“The important thing is that the allocated prizemoney can be distributed on the day.

“We need a lot of luck to continue but all the right systems are in place.”