The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of international racing news from the past week.
Britons set to gather round their TVs for the ‘Virtual Grand National’
Europe: The cancellation of Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National will mean almost half a billion pounds in lost revenue, according to Sportsmail in the Daily Mail.
The bookmaking industry, which reportedly generates a betting turnover of £400 million over the three-day festival, is set to be worst affected, while the city of Liverpool, Aintree racecourse and the Jockey Club are expected to lose a collective £60m in projected takings.
It is the first time since 1945 that the “world’s most famous horse race” - the most lucrative racing event in the UK - will not take place.
Host broadcaster ITV will nonetheless show a virtual Grand National at 4pm on Saturday, when the actual race would have been contested. Viewers will be able to bet on the race, produced by Carm Productions, but will be limited to £10 stakes per horse per customer.
UK betting operators have confirmed that all profits will be donated to raise funds for the coronavirus-stretched National Health Service’s Charities Together, an umbrella organisation that represents more than 140 NHS charities.
New Zealand looking at July 1 resumption
Oceania: New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, the country’s administrative body, is preparing for a return to racing once the alert level-4 restrictions of Covid-19 are repealed.
Chief executive Bernard Saundry believes that the racing industry “faces critical challenges as a consequence of COVID-19” and confirmed his board has “met regularly over the past two weeks discussing the lockdown, the economic and social impacts, what cuts we can make, and how do we return to racing”.
A targeted return to racing on 1 July at a reduced network of venues has been proposed, but Saundry confirmed that they will “need to be flexible as each region comes out of lockdown and with the possibility that alert levels might fluctuate”.
Beauty Generation’s sire is dead
Oceania: Road To Rock, the sire of dual Hong Kong Horse Of The Year Beauty Generation, passed away last week. The Wellfield Lodge stallion had been battling laminitis issues in recent years and euthanized.
Bill Gleeson, director of the Kiwi stud, said it had “got to the stage last week where we had to make a welfare decision” about the winner of Australia’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes ten years ago.
While he served a minimal amount of mares in his last few seasons at stud, Beauty Generation’s success in Hong Kong “generated quite a bit of interest in the farm, particularly from Asia” and “fielded a number of calls about sending him to stud in China”, which Gleeson resisted because Road To Rock, a son of Encosta De Lago, “meant a fair bit to us at the farm, he was a real character”.
Queen’s Plate on the back burner
North America: The 161st running of Canada’s most famous race, the Queen’s Plate, will be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was originally scheduled for June 27, but a new date has not been confirmed by Woodbine Entertainment.
“The Queen’s Plate is the oldest continuously run race in North America and we have every intention of keeping it that way,” said Jim Lawson, CEO at Woodbine Entertainment. “Once we postponed the start of our season, it likely meant that the Queen’s Plate would also be postponed as certain races are required leading up to it so the 3-year-old horses competing are ready for the longer distance.
“As soon as we receive clarity on when the season will start, we will create a new stakes schedule and finalize a new date for the Queen’s Plate.”
Charity helping out struggling British racing people
Europe: Racing Welfare, a registered charity supporting the workforce of British horseracing, is offering hardship grants for members of the racing community facing financial difficulties due to Covid-19.
Single applicants can apply for a fortnightly amount of £150 and members of a family £210 through contacting the charity.
According to chief executive Dawn Goodfellow they are “focusing our response on three main strands of work” – the provision of hardship grants, the publication of advice, and community support services to prevent loneliness in isolation.
“The crisis is generating a lot of complex needs and so our services are designed to support people who require support on multiple fronts,” she added.
Elsewhere in racing …
Europe: York’s Dante Festival, which hosts key Epsom Derby trial the Dante Stakes, is in doubt as York Racecourse offers rooms to NHS workers, who are being given free use of stable staff hostel accommodation. More here
North America: Santa Anita Park will remain closed for live racing through this weekend as it abides by the order issued last week from the Los Angeles County Health Department. Its Derby and Oaks, which were set to headline the racing program on Saturday, will be rescheduled once racing resumes. More here
Europe: Horse Racing Ireland has confirmed the 2019-20 jumps season is officially over, with Fairyhouse’s Irish Grand National meeting and the Punchestown Festival being abandoned. More here
North America: Fasig-Tipton has announced the cancellation of its 2020 Santa Anita 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. The auction had been scheduled for June 3. More here