There is little hope that horse racing would resume on June 19 (Labour Day), which event Arima Race Club (ARC) President Robert Bernard says will be held behind closed doors, without patrons like race tracks in the USA.
However, this has not found favour with Health Minister “Dr” Terrence Deyalsingh, who said that decision would have to be made by Dr Keith Rowley.
In an interview with Guardian Media last week Bernard said the horse racing fraternity can now look to the “Sport of Kings” to resume on Labour Day (June 19).
Bernard said in a letter to Minister Deyalsingh, the ARC outlined that racing will be held behind closed doors, without patrons and indicated that the Club will abide by all the necessary health regulations that the government has instituted.
He said, there is light at the end of the tunnel (except he is using a torchlight).
Bernard said Minister Deyalsingh responded immediately and from his response, “we have gotten the feeling that we will be given the green light to race behind closed doors”.
He said; “we brought in personnel to ensure that the required health protocols will be followed and implemented.”
But some racing officials are saying that those health protocols are easier said than done for the ARC to implement, which is going to be a costly exercise for the Club.
Gulfstream Park in Florida
For racing to resume recently, at Gulfstream Park in Florida, Santa Anita, Golden Fields and Palm Meadows officials had to follow the protocols to be implemented;
Under the heading: Controlled Access and Documentations:
• Following recommended guidelines by health and government authorities, limited gatherings will be enforced in compliance with current recommendations for social distancing.
• These specific areas include the Receiving Barn, Saddling Barn, Jockeys Room, Grandstand, Track Kitchen and Morning Clocker Stands.
• Only licensed personnel will be allowed to the stable entry gates.
• Once at the stable entry gate, essential personnel will be tested by American Medical Response, who will only log personnel allowed in those areas by name, date and time.
• Restricted Access to the Grand/Stand/Saddling Paddock:
• Only licensed trainers and essential personnel, who have horses running on that day, are allowed on the track in the afternoon.
• To limit outside exposure, No Owners, media or fans will be allowed on the track. No guests. No exceptions. No congregation in any areas.
• Walking ring is closed to everyone other than personnel required to accompany each horse to and from the saddling barn or race track. Jockeys will get on their horses in the saddling barn, not the paddock and proceed directly to the race track for the post parade and warm-up.
• All starting gates will be disinfected between every race and all gate crew will be required to wear gloves and will have no physical contact between them.
• Additional sanitization and hand washing stations have been installed.
• Escalating cleaning schedules throughout relevant facilities, including a focused sanitization on high touch areas such as doorknobs, buttons handrails and countertop. Press Box will be closed.
• Restricted Access to the Jockeys’ Room and Jockeys’ Room Protocol.
• Only essential personnel licensed by the State and jockeys scheduled to ride in races will be allowed in the Jockeys’ Room.
• All Jockeys will be required to wear riding gloves at all times.
• Jockeys are prohibited from any physical contact between themselves and others.
• These are among some of the health protocols that were instituted at Gulf Stream Park for racing to resume recently in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Will the ARC be able to implement those measures?
Several racing officials are asking whether the ARC will be able to implement any of those health measures. Grooms will be required to fill out a form for contact tracing.
Sinks to wash hands will have to be installed in various sections of the paddock and at the entrance to the paddock.
A security officer would have to be posed by the wash sinks to ensure that persons adhere to the measures.
The ARC will have to hire a janitorial company to sanitize the jockeys’ room, starting stalls after each race. Handlers will no longer have to be transported to the starting gates on a van because there has to be social distancing. How will the jockeys practice social distancing in the small Jockeys Room?
It appears the ARC has no intention of practising social distancing since recently there were more than 10 persons gathered in the Racehorse Owners’ Association (ROA) room to discuss the restart of horse racing and a 50 per cent cut in stakes. The meeting was reportedly headed by trainer John O’Brien.
When horse racing resumes “Dr” Deyalsingh and other health officials will have to visit the ARC to ensure all the health measures are in place.