Sydney trainer John Sargent has a message for people who believe horse racing should cease during the coronavirus pandemic – declaring the sport’s health and safety protocols are strong enough to keep racing alive.
Horse racing continues to fight for its short-term survival in Australia as one of the only sports still operating while the global health crisis rolls on.
Just this week the sport had its biggest coronavirus scare after Melbourne jockey Mark Zahra came in contact with someone on a commercial flight who had the potentially deadly disease.
It forced Zahra and several of his peers across multiple states to be tested for the virus – all of which came up negative.
The result gave racing the green light to continue heading into Saturday’s Group I Tancred Stakes day but many question if that should be the case.
Sargent argues otherwise and took to Twitter earlier this week while at Warwick Farm to show just the level of health measures in place on raceday.
See the video below.
— Caroline (@CaroSearcc) March 25, 2020
Only essential staff and participants are now able to attend racedays, barrier trials and trackwork, with social distancing a high priority for all still involved.
“I would love to take anyone who is anti-racing at the moment to the races because it is like being in a morgue,” Sargent said.
“There is about six trainers there, not together, no one in the stands, all the jockeys are segregated.
“They couldn’t have better protocols. You can’t go near the jockeys. You give the colours to someone who relays them to another person.
“There are people cleaning around the clock with cleaning and disinfectant.
“If people came and saw it, they would have no problem with it.
“I would go to the supermarket and have worse problems or anything around the streets.”
Participants and stable staff have also been forced to adhere to strict new health protocols as part of a raft of measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Jockeys have also been segregated into three different groups to minimise risk in NSW.
The strict measures are essential for racing’s immediate survival and are one of the core reasons why Saturday’s Tancred Stakes day can go ahead.
Sargent will be on track again for the meeting as he targets Group I success in the Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
The Randwick-trainer has Aspect Ratio in the future, with the Declaration Of War filly being set on a path to the Australian Oaks.
Aspect Ratio is a $51 outsider for the Vinery Stud and while Sargent doesn’t expect his three-year-old to win the race, he believes she will run well.
“I think the likes of Probabeel and Funstar will be tough to beat but when we get to the Oaks in two weeks time the 2400m should suit her perfectly,” he said.
“But she should be running home. As long as she is hitting the line I know she is on target.
“Running in for fifth or sixth is probably the pass mark as long as she is not too far away.
“They are a very classy fillies those top two and it is a strong year but you know what it is like when you get up to 2400m. It is a different story.”
Tim Clark will ride Aspect Ratio from barrier two on Saturday.
Sargent also has House Of Cartier in the Neville Sellwood Stakes and believes the mare will improve third-up from a spell.
Read all News by Mitch Cohen