Right now, the racing industry is running in a virtual steeplechase over an indefinite distance
(Photo: Ross Stanley, Warrnambool, 2017)

Gunsynd's GossipMarch 31, 2020

At present, horse racing (and life in general) is a little akin to the trials and tribulations weathered by jumps jockeys.

Soon after one obstacle is cleared another one – usually higher – looms up rather quickly.

All the time, there is a chance that one will prove devastating.

Worst of all at the moment, no one knows where the finishing post is.

Racing Queensland’s announcement on Thursday, March 26 is another manoeuvre designed to bolster the continuation of racing in the state.

The notion of creating almost self contained zones ticks the objective by governments to minimise movement.

Moreover, if a problem develops in one of the districts, it should not necessarily bring the whole of Queensland’s industry to a standstill.

It is a pragmatic containment strategy.

Essentially, horses and their trainers are restricted to their residential zone.

Fortunately jockeys can ride in two adjacent east-west zones such as the South East Coastal and the Darling Downs.

The information below shows the zones, the tracks and the membership areas.

Naturally, there are significant cutbacks to the usual calendar in terms of frequency of programs and racecourses involved.

  • 1 – METRO NORTH: Racing venues are Eagle Farm and Doomben (Saturdays) and the Sunshine Coast (Wednesdays). Horses prepared at those Brisbane centres plus those from Deagon are eligible to race there.
  • 2 – METRO SOUTH WEST: Racing and training venues are the Gold Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba (plus horses based at Gatton, Beaudesert and Warwick).
  • 3 – DARLING DOWNS ZONE: Races will be staged every Saturday, alternating between Roma and Charleville for Downs and Eastern Downs horses.
  • 4 – SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND COAST: Every second Sunday a meeting will be held at Bundaberg for horses from the SEQ Country Racing Association plus Thangool, Calliope and Gladstone. This is the sole opportunity for South Burnett stables
  • 5 – CENTRAL WEST: Races will be on every Saturday alternating between Barcaldine and Emerald. Horses from Central West and parts of Capricornia and Leichhardt are eligible.
  • 6 – CENTRAL: Rockhampton and Mackay are the hosts with Yepponn based gallopers also eligible.
  • 7 – NORTH WEST: Mount Isa will be the venue each fortnight for the region’s residents.
  • 8 – NORTH ZONE: Racing will be provided each Thursday, alternating between Cairns and Townsville for Far North horses as well as those from Bowen, Home Hill, Charters Towers and Ewan.

* * *

Dilemma For Apprentices

Trainers, their track riders and handlers are restricted to meetings in their base zone.

This means that if apprentices in Brisbane and Deagon opt to do stable duties for their master, they will not be able to ride at country venues.

They may need to move “on loan” to a zone where they are likely to get bookings for the duration of the zoning program, which is currently scheduled to operate until May 31.

Usually, South East Queensland race meetings are a major source of bookings for junior hoops.

The new arrangements will kick off at the Mackay Turf Club on Tuesday, March 31 and will be restricted to Central Coast participants.

Sunday’s Sunshine Coast Turf Club card and Nanango’s stand in cover meeting in lieu of Esk’s cancellation have been abandoned.

* * *

Other Points To Ponder

Ireland, South Africa, England, New Zealand and France are examples of jurisdictions that have proceeded from spectator-free racing to total closures.

Glamour casualties include Aintree’s Grand National, the Kentucky Derby and Santa Anita racing has been shut down by Los Angeles Health Department because it considered to be a non-essential business.

Although the Australian Turf Club is pushing on with its ultra lucrative autumn festival, Queensland has pulled the opposite rein by calling off its famous winter carnival already.

The saved prizemoney can be used to support situations generated by the present emergency.

Last week’s temporary suspension of a few race programs until the test results for Mark Zahra, Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry were known does show the vulnerability of the industry.

Melbourne jockeys who were not in Sydney last Monday cannot compete in the New South Wales capital.

The Inglis Yearling Easter Sale that has regularly produced a cavalcade of million dollar lots has been split into a digital format during April 5-8 and the usual physical set up later in the year.

Arrowfield Stud, under the leadership of John Messara, has already withdrawn its consignment and will conduct its own independent sale.

Australia’s TAB agencies join their pub and club TAB counterparts on the list of businesses that have had to put up the shutters.

* * *

Well-known South Burnett trainer Glenn Richardson and Nanango jockey Hannah English were married at Mulanah Gardens this month (Photo: Kathy Duff)

The Good News

The 2020 $2 million Sydney Cup, slotted in for Easter Saturday, April 11, will bring back memories of Tie The Knot, the winner in 1998 and 1999.

The weight-for-age superstar chalked up 13 elite level triumphs.

The chestnut was a grandson of Blushing Groom, a term that did not apply to leading Nanango trainer Glenn Richardson when he married Hannah English at Mulanah Gardens earlier this month.

The wedding guests were delighted that the couple had previously uttered the name of Blushing Groom’s star grand-daughter Let’s Elope, the 1991 VRC Melbourne Cup, VATC Caulfield Cup and 1992 VRC Australian Cup heroine.

The word is that it was lovely occasion.

The South Burnett thoroughbred fraternity wishes them nothing but the best for the future.

Meanwhile, it will be work as usual.

“Luckily, we do have a number of horses at present that race well at Bundaberg. We’ll see how the new ones handle it,” Richardson said.

“It would have been useful to have, say, an extra meeting each month on a rotational basis at some of the other Burnett tracks,” he added.

The next column will review Saturday’s Monto fixture, the last SEQ card before the rezoning policy becomes the hopefully short-term norm.

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