Racing across Australia is set to resume following news that star Victorian jockey Mark Zahra has tested negative to coronavirus.
The Victorian Jockeys’ Association confirmed at 9.30pm on Thursday night that Zahra had been given the all-clear after the return of test results.
It means racing is poised to resume and should see all meetings go ahead over the next few days – including the Group I Tancred Stakes meeting at Rosehill on Saturday.
Victorian racing was suspended once Zahra notified Racing Victoria he was unwittingly exposed to the possibility of contracting the coronavirus when travelling on a commercial flight on March 12.
Other jurisdictions took the same decision.
However racing authorities always said that should Zahra return a negative result to a coronavirus test then racing was free to proceed under strict protocols.
Leading Sydney jockeys Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry could also both breathe a sigh of relief on Thursday after both were cleared of any risk.
Zahra had been on the same commercial flight as someone who had tested positive to coronavirus and had since been in contact with fellow hoops across several states.
He flew to Sydney on a private jet for Golden Slipper day alongside a group of his peers. The NSW-based duo of Bowman and Berry were on the flight and were tested for exposure to the virus as a precaution.
Racing Victoria released a statement on Thursday night confirming that racing would resume in Victoria.
“(Friday) Race meetings at Warrnambool [day]and Pakenham [twilight]will proceed as programmed under the strict COVID-19 protocols governing the conduct of racing in accordance with all the current directives, guidelines and advice established by the Victorian Government on the advice of the Chief Health Officer,” the statemernt said.
“Zahra has advised that, whilst he has been cleared to resume riding immediately; he is not booked for any rides until the Golden Mile meeting at Bendigo on Saturday, 28 March.
“The restrictions imposed tonight on all licensed flat jockeys from participating in trackwork have been lifted for the members of the ‘Gold Team’. The protocol precluding the 21 jockeys in the ‘Green Team’, including Zahra, from participating in trackwork remains in place as part of Victorian racing’s ongoing measures to segregate riders.
“A standing order remains for all industry participants to remain at home if they are feeling unwell, are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with a confirmed case. No other riders are currently displaying symptoms of COVID-19.”
RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson said: “We’re really pleased for Mark that his test has come back negative. This situation has placed undue pressure on Mark through no fault of his own and I want to again publicly thank and acknowledge the professional and responsible manner in which he has acted.
“Mark’s negative test paves the way for racing to resume in Victoria tomorrow and for this we are extremely grateful. We are acutely aware of the incredible hardship that many Australians are facing as at this time through the loss of their jobs, which is why we are continuing to work so hard to protect the livelihoods of all those within Victorian racing who depend on it.
“Victorian racing supports the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs through the employment of a vast array of people including trainers, stable staff, jockeys, breeders, vets, farriers, float drivers, administrators, officials and many more. At the centre of our sport is the horse and these people provide the critical care and attention that our horses require on a daily basis.
“In announcing the resumption of racing, I want to assure the Victorian community that racing will continue to operate under strict biosecurity protocols and where required act decisively, as we did when suspending racing yesterday, should there be any risk to the health of our industry stakeholders and the wider community.” – Racenet.com.au