Day At The Track

Harness and greyhound racing hit by halt

09:24 AM 04 Apr 2020 NZDT
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My Ultimate Major
Craig Hayes pilots My Ultimate Major at Burnie Showgrounds.
Greg Mansfield Photo

Harness racing and greyhound participants are also coming to terms with the four-week minimum hiatus that has suddenly hit their respective sports.

Stowport's Craig Hayes is many of many North-West hobby trainers who only have a handful of horses in work at the one time and combine their passion in and around work commitments.

Speaking on Friday, Hayes, who also drives at meetings as well, said he was surprised at the call to suspend racing after Tasracing received an exemption to continue on only a day before.

"I thought we would be right here in Tasmania if everyone done the right thing," Hayes said.

"Everything seemed under control but obviously not and I don't know why it happened - someone may have done the wrong thing along the line.

"It won't affect me like it will for a lot of others, but the Easter Cup was coming up in Launceston and I had a runner in that so that's a bit disappointing, especially for the owners.

"We don't know exactly how long the break is going to be so I'll just put all my horses out in the paddock now and wait until we get some sort of direction."

North West Greyhound Racing Club president Robyn Johnson has suffered a double blow to her code this week after the forced abandonment of Tuesday's regular meeting at the Devonport Showgrounds.

While philosophical about the halt in proceedings, Johnson said greyhound trainers, which include her husband Gary, were set to face several challenges.

"I think Tasmania is leading the charge and appears to be more shutdown than anywhere else, so to some degree the decision seems to be in line with that," Johnson said.

"But it will be a challenge for everyone in the industry, to try and look after our dogs and keep them fit and healthy.

"Even when we start back up it will take some time to get them back to racing fitness - they're athletes.

North West Greyhound Racing Club president Robyn Johnson. Picture: Phillip Biggs.

 North West Greyhound Racing Club president Robyn Johnson. Picture: Phillip Biggs.


"Gary runs the dogs as a business and so do the likes of Anthony Bullock, Ted Medhurst and Debbie Cannon, and if you're not making any money out it you will go broke very quickly.

"It costs a lot to feed a dog, we don't just thrown them the scraps off the table, and now, even though we're not racing and driving around Tasmania with them, they still need to eat."

Johnson hopes that an early shutdown of the industry can result in an early reinstatement if society takes the right measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"We shut down earlier than a lot of Australia so hopefully we can keep the numbers low and really control things." Johnson said.

"To some degree we might open back up before the rest of Australia and I think that's what people are working on if we do the right thing now."

The four-week halt to the racing industry will cover four NWGRC meetings, including their Good Friday event, while the Devonport Harness Racing Club have had to wipe its seven race card on Friday night and another meeting on April 24.

By Brad Cole

Reprinted with permission of The Advocate

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