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Image: Steve Hart
Joe Pride is calling for changes to the Sydney racing calendar to cater for horses who would be competing in the Brisbane winter carnival

Trainer Joe Pride is calling for changes to the Sydney racing calendar to cater for horses who would otherwise be competing in the Brisbane winter carnival.

Queensland has drastically reduced its black-type offering because of the coronavirus pandemic and biosecurity protocols mean travelling horses interstate is logistically complex.

Given the timing of the national virus restrictions, most trainers already had their winter carnival horses in training when the landscape changed.

Pride says there will be an increased need for open class races in Sydney to cater for Group-class horses unable to travel to Brisbane.

“I get it at the moment where money is not something you want to splash around but you don’t have to make the races rich races, you just have to give good horses somewhere to go,” Pride said.

“Otherwise there are people who, in good faith, brought their horses into work to get ready for the winter (carnival) to take to Brisbane who have now got nowhere to go.

“You’ve got to look after the owners. Even if they can put some open handicaps on and weight them so the Group horses could be there, then at least people can go around for $100,000.”

The Doomben 10,000, along with the Queensland Derby and Queensland Oaks, have all been casualties of the winter carnival cutbacks while the Group One J J Atkins has been reduced in distance to 1400 metres.

Australian Turf Club senior racing executive James Heddo says officials are working closely with trainers and have tweaked the schedule for two-year-olds in line with the distance change to the Atkins.

There is already a strong black-type program for stayers throughout the Sydney winter but Heddo says officials will keep an open mind and make further programming adjustments if needed.

“We are very flexible in that. We will continue to monitor the horse population and gauge how many horses do go to Queensland and if we have to adjust our program further we will,” Heddo said.

“That might be just adjusting some benchmarks to higher benchmarks and possibly running an increased number of open handicaps.

“Having said that, we are quite comfortable with the program we have in place at the moment and outside the two-year-old changes that we have already made, I wouldn’t anticipate any further significant changes.”

The ATC and Racing NSW have worked closely to ensure racing can continue throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the majority of sports to shut down.

While there has been an inevitable downturn in wagering and and some prize money reductions, Heddo says the industry has done a superb job to band together and continue.

“With the All Aged Stakes, we dropped prize money 20 per cent, we had a capacity field and it is probably the best one we’ve ever had,” Heddo said.

“It is an interesting time, the fields (Rosehill Saturday) were massive and we expect that to continue through May, June and July.

“From the ATC’s point of view we’re really pleased we have been able to continue to race and cater for a large number of horses and the races have been really good.”

There is no stakes racing in Sydney next Saturday but there will be black-type offerings over the following two weekends with feature meetings from both Gosford and Scone shifted to the city.

 
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