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D-day looms as racing waits on government decision

23rd April, 14:42

A decision on whether racing can take place behind closed doors is expected on April 28

Next Tuesday (April 28) is D-day for SA racing. It is when government is expected to announce a decision on the National Horseracing Authority's (NHA) application for the sport to resume behind closed doors on May 1.

Vee Moodley, CEO of the NHA, has revealed the application was sent on April 15 on behalf of the racing industry for an exemption from specific lockdown regulations. The application has been acknowledged.

"We are hopeful of a positive response in order to safeguard the horse racing industry and ensure its sustainability," said Moodley.

Appointed CEO in December 2018, Moodley has come full circle with his employers. He was appointed NHA handicapper in 2003 and has also held the positions as sports betting executive of Phumelela and CEO of Betting World, a subsidiary of that company.

Moodley says the NHA has made the following points in the application.

* Horse racing poses a negligible threat to public health.

* It preserves jobs for the most vulnerable sectors of society.

* It can contribute to the resurrection of the SA economy in a safe and controlled environment.

* It can mitigate a big animal welfare crisis facing the industry.

He said that the NHA has done its own risk assessment and identified horse racing as a low-risk activity as there is limited contact and it is also of high economic value.

The application argues that SA horse racing operated successfully behind closed doors before the national lockdown, and is operating successfully in training centres under lockdown conditions.

It points out that the industry employs 60,000 people directly or indirectly. Of this total, 5,000 are grooms and it may be difficult for them to find jobs in other economic sectors.

Business Day reported this week that Moses Tembe, chair of Phumelela Gaming & Leisure, said that "given the set of circumstances, if lockdown is extended beyond the end of April we would have no choice but to reduce numbers to save the company".

"We are pleading with government to help us save jobs," said Tembe.

The NHA will be hoping government notes that racing is taking place behind closed doors in several countries including Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden and states in the US.

There was a development for French racing on Wednesday when France Galop announced racing had been given the green light to resume on May 11. Racing had been suspended since March 17.

However, even stricter regulations will apply with only the trainer, jockey and one groom permitted on the racecourse for one runner.

British trainers and jockeys -- faced with an indefinite lockdown -- will be disappointed to learn that no trainers or jockeys based outside France will be allowed to compete.