What’s been happening in the racing industry around the world

The outstanding Japanese mare Almond Eye being put through her paces at Meydan earlier this week before the announcement that Saturday’s meeting has been postponed. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

As it does in every other walk of life, the coronavirus pandemic is dominating the headlines in Thoroughbred racing. Here is some of the main news worldwide.


Castellano in positive test for coronavirus

North America: Javier Castellano has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a now-deleted statement on Twitter from his agent, John Panagot.

Officials at Gulfstream Park required the Hall of Fame rider – who is “asymptomatic and feels fine” – to take a physical test in order to continue riding at the track, where the G1 Florida Derby is due to take place on Saturday.

The world #13 evidently failed the test with regards to coronavirus and will “self-isolate until he is medically cleared” to be in public and return to the saddle. Panagot claims that jockey “jogged three miles [on] Wednesday and looked forward to [competing over] the weekend.”

12-month wait for the next Dubai World Cup

Middle East: The Dubai World Cup meeting has been postponed until next year to “safeguard the health of all participants”, having been due to be held this Saturday (March 28) behind closed doors.

The 25th edition of the event had a total prize pool of $35 million, including $12 million for the feature race.

While travel restrictions and concerns about spreading the virus further meant the meeting had already lost key contenders, including those from Aidan O’Brien’s stable, many of the participants took part in routine exercise on the Meydan track on Sunday morning - the announcement was then made by the afternoon.

World top-five jockeys Frankie Dettori and William Buick, as well as Japanese turf star Almond Eye, were all expected to make to take part. Although it was uncertain whether they would have been able to contest the lucrative races, as the government has temporarily banned foreigners from entering the UAE as the country tries to contain the spread of the Covid-19.

Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor said, “The health of everybody has to be the number one priority now.”

Racing in Australia: it’s on, it’s off, it’s back on  

Oceania: Racing in Victoria and New South Wales will restart tomorrow (Friday) after a two-day pause, but the Queensland Winter Carnival has been abandoned, according to racenet.com.au.

Meetings in Victoria and New South Wales yesterday and today were cancelled because world #33 rider Mark Zahra was said to have been in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 on a commercial flight to Victoria. But on Thursday, Zahra’s own test returned negative, meaning racing can continue from Friday, resuming with a nine-race card at Warrnambool, Victoria.

In New South Wales, meanwhile, top riders Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry, have both returned negative negative samples in precautionary tests for the virus.

Saturday’s big meeting at Rosehill Gardens, featuring two G1s, is expected to go ahead.

All racing in Australia is taking place without public spectators.

Irish racing’s facilities ‘at the government’s disposal’

Europe: Ireland is the latest country to join a growing list of jurisdictions around the globe to suspend racing because of the pandemic. As of Tuesday, all sporting events were cancelled there, forcing horse racing to shut its doors for at least a month.

Irish racing had been going ahead without fans and under strict protocols from March 13 but will return at the earliest on April 19.

Horse Racing Ireland chairman Nicky Hartery admits the sport possibly faces its “greatest challenge”. He added that racing's facilities are now at the “disposal of the Government” as the “most important [thing] is that, as a country, we individually and collectively fight the transmission of Covid-19 and focus on our health”.

Cork Racecourse is being prepared as a testing centre for the virus.

Aidan O’Brien said, “That’s the reality of the situation now. We need to keep people as healthy and as safe as possible and whatever everybody has to do to achieve that is the right thing to do. 

“Everyone in racing has shown they are fully behind implementing the requirements and we will do whatever is necessary.”

South Africa’s three-week break

South Africa: Racing in South Africa has taken place behind closed doors over the past week, with only essential participants allowed to attend, but following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s announced that the country would go into lockdown there will be no racing there from tomorrow for three weeks.

Vaal’s meeting today will be the last until the situation is re-evaluated in the coming weeks.

Racing Post suspends publication

Europe: Due to racing in Britain and Ireland being stopped and the closure of betting shops, the Racing Post, the UK’s betting industry trade paper will be temporarily suspending its daily print publication.

Its online offerings will remain under the watch of a skeleton team, with some of its regular team being temporarily stood down. Editor Tom Kerr did, however, confirm that the media outlet would be “utilising the job retention scheme announced by the government, until the paper returns” and that “when racing is back, the Racing Post newspaper will be back as well”.

All change for Todd Pletcher

North America: Leading U.S. trainer Todd Pletcher is closing his Belmont Park stable for the foreseeable future “for the safety of our employees and to make sure horses are getting the proper care”.

The seven-time Eclipse Award winner, currently ranked 43 in the TRC global standings, is currently based in Florida, where he has a large string of horses at the Palm Beach Downs training centre. He had 19 based at Belmont and some will joining the 52-year old at Palm Beach Downs, with the remainder going to his father Jake’s farm in Ocala or WinStar Farm in Kentucky. Horses owned by Barry Schwartz will be going to Schwartz’s New York farm, Pletcher said.

Elsewhere in racing…

Oceania: The Inglis flagship Easter Yearling Sale in Sydney will take place solely on a digital format. The Australian sales company will use its successful online technology to host the April 5-6 sale. More here

North America: The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame has announced its 2020 ballot of 30 people and horses, comprised of 15 Thoroughbred and 15 Standardbred candidates. More here

North America: Robert T Manfuso, a long-time Maryland breeder and owner, died of natural causes at his home on March 19, according to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. He was 82.

North America: Canterbury Park Holding Corporation, which owns and operates Canterbury Park, announced record fourth-quarter revenues in 2019, despite a decrease in pari-mutuel revenues. More here

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