S'pore racing hopes for July restart
But it is subject to the authorities' approval and conditional on the battle against Covid-19
The Singapore Turf Club (STC) is hoping racing can resume behind closed doors next month, during the second of three phases to gradually restart Singapore's economy over the next several months.
Phase 1, which is expected to last at least four weeks, kicks off today, after the two-month circuit breaker measures to stem the spike in Covid-19 cases ended yesterday.
But sporting venues, recreational and outdoor facilities, including the racecourse, remain closed, as national efforts to overcome Covid-19 in Singapore continue.
In a circular on Friday to update the racing fraternity, STC's president and chief executive (covering) Fong Yong Kian said the club has been working on various fronts since April 3, when racing was suspended.
The STC will continue to make efforts to ensure that the fraternity retains the capacity to resume racing in an expeditious manner when the government allows it.
"Together with Tote Board, the club has been working with the relevant government agencies, to provide the best care for the horses and to work towards getting racing resumed, as soon as July 2020," said Fong, who is also the chief executive of the Tote Board, which oversees the STC and Singapore Pools.
"While we remain hopeful, resumption of racing is subject to approval by the authorities and largely conditional on prevailing circumstances in the fight against Covid-19.
"In addition, the club has been working closely with all trainers to condition the fitness of horses carefully to prepare for this eventuality.
"Horses generally take up to six weeks to be race-fit and ready. The club has been working with the authorities to allow pace work during morning track work for the past week.
"We hope to get approval to reintroduce the horses to fast work in June. These ongoing preparatory works will facilitate a safe and fast transition for our horses to resume racing when the green light is given."
Michael Clements, president of the Association of Racehorse Trainers (Singapore), said that trainers are optimistic that the Kranji action will be able to restart soon, now that there is evidence that the virus is coming under control.
Singapore confirmed 408 new cases yesterday but there were no community infections.
"Obviously, it is subject to confirmation, but we hope to be racing early in July," he said.
"You know, obviously for us, it takes time to prepare the horses for racing. We cannot switch on, switch off and then switch back on the horses.
"We have got to get them into a programme of exercises for a number of weeks ahead of racing them, so we are optimistically doing some planning at this stage to be able to have them ready for racing early in July."
During the circuit breaker, the horses did only light and conditional work. The trainers anticipate to build that up to some race-specific workouts over the next few weeks.
"The owners, the jockeys, all the players within the industry - as well as the followers of racing - have all been very patient. You know, we are all excited to be able to resume racing as soon as possible, now that everything seems to be coming under control," he said.
Jockeys, such as Johor-based M Zaki, are also looking forward to the return of racing at Kranji. They have been impacted by the shutdown with no income from stakemoney and riding fees.
"I hope racing can restart soon. It's already two months without any income. I just got married and I have to support my wife, my mother and my siblings," said Zaki in Malay.
"It's a big headache, I don't know what to say. Just thinking about it really makes me want to cry. I just hope the virus will go away quickly and I can go back to ride in Singapore."
STC-licensed Daniel Moor, Michael Rodd and Patrick Moloney have returned to ride in Australia. Kiwi lass Alysha Collett has also gone to Australia, where her elder brother Jason is based. All have ridden winners.
Most of the countries which shut down their racing because of the coronavirus pandemic have resumed without spectators, the latest being England and South Africa yesterday.