The Borrowdale Park race meeting scheduled for Sunday 9 August was postponed by the Mashonaland Turf Club on Saturday, at noon, because permission to race had not been received from the SRC – who in their wisdom must have felt there had been a breach of COVID -19 protocols somewhere along the line.
As I understand it the protocols mainly revolve around social distancing – and wearing of masks. This is in force around Harare but does not seem to apply to queuing for transport, queuing for maize meal and so on and so forth – all in confined areas. Masks are worn – and slipped down occasionally – because people need to breathe, or make themselves heard, now and again.
Borrowdale Park racecourse covers hundreds of acres so why not groups of 50 people spread at huge intervals around the course? Not that this has been happening.
At present, the size of the race fields is on average about 6 runners. But let’s say there could be 8 or 9, and that hasn’t happened often since March 27.
At the start of a race (far away from the stands and parade ring) perhaps there might be 12 handlers, 2 starters, 2 vets, 8 jockeys, 4 extras – totalling 28 – and all these figures are on the high side.
In the Parade Ring, before and after the race, there could be 8 jockeys, 4 trainers, 2 photographers, 10 grooms, 4 owners, 2 commentators, 2 stipes, 1 specimen collector– a total of 33 and also probably not so many in actual fact.
On the stands which could accommodate hundreds – all social distancing – only a handful, including some from the Parade Ring. So, what is the problem?
At each meeting, there are only 7 or 8 races – spread over about 4 hours.
A race meeting takes a lot of time to set up – and costs money. There are various stages – Nominations, Weights & Draws, Acceptances, and before that the planning, and training and feeding many horses. The only return owners get is from stake money earned in a race – and at Borrowdale, races are few and far between.
The fact that racing has been allowed in a limited fashion during the past couple of months is appreciated – but it seems permission must be sought for each meeting and that is not given timeously.
Racing is both a sport and an industry – once very successful – and some livelihoods are at stake. In Zimbabwe racing has been battling to survive for several years – and credit is due to those who have made this possible. At this stage, power plays are not helpful.
This pandemic is causing havoc worldwide but race meetings are taking place in many countries, even in those most affected. In some cases moves are afoot to step back from the most stringent of the behind-closed-doors stipulations.
I do not speak for the Mashonaland Turf Club but in the interests of Borrowdale racing in the long term, I believe I have the right to state my case.