Horse racing industry pleads for partial re-opening to save jobs

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The horse racing authority is pleading for a partial restart of the industry under Level 4 of the lockdown, warning that a prolonged suspension of activity could lead to massive financial impact and job losses.

Like most sporting codes, the lucrative industry shut down in late in March, following the announcement of Covid-19 national lockdown.

In a statement on Thursday, the National Horseracing Authority warned that the sector was on the verge of collapse and "running against time" to save more than 60 000 jobs which are impacted by the shutdown. It urged the National Command Council to allow it to resume controlled closed horse racing during Level 4 of the lockdown.

"Our plea to our government at this stage is not for the industry to operate as business as usual, but to do the least to save jobs and horses. We are asking for closed racing which will involve about 65 people per racecourse and about 15 minutes of racing per day. That is all it will take to avoid the collapse of this industry at this stage," said Vee Moodley, CEO of the National Horseracing Authority.

The Authority said it has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the NCC to consider a partial restart of the industry - either closed races per day - to protect jobs and the welfare of the animals. It has proposed that horse racing events be restarted under strict conditions.

Moodley described the situation as "dire", saying the lost revenue directly impacts multiple people looking after the horses before, during and after each race. Moodley added that around 400 horses per month face the prospect of being euthanised if the suspension of racing persists.

According to the industry, trainers, grooms and jockeys have been severely impacted by slowdown in business. Last week, Phumelela Gaming and Leisure said it was in talks to raise R300 million save the industry from collapse.

Compiled by Sibongile Khumalo

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