Danie Toerien: With the country remaining on level 3 lockdown until at least midway through February, it seems highly unlikely that jockeys will be allowed unrestricted travel in the foreseeable future.
The National Horseracing Authority (NHA) yesterday confirmed that for now, racing will continue behind closed doors, and that an update regarding jockeys’ travel restrictions will be issued by 26 January.
In a press release issued yesterday, the NHA reiterated that “the status quo of ‘Racing Behind Closed Doors’ as per the NHA’s Press Release on 29 December 2020 remains in place”.
This means that only essential staff are allowed on course while jockeys have to be domiciled in one region.
The NHA also reiterated that the non-pharmaceutical measures of wearing of masks, sanitizing and social distancing is critical and the Chief Compliance Officer, Mr Arnold Hyde, together with his team shall continue to ensure this is done throughout a race meeting.
This news comes barely 24 hours after PJ McDonald, senior jockey and president of the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) in England, urged his weighing-room colleagues to “do the right thing” in redoubling efforts to keep race meetings going during the coronavirus pandemic, reports racingpost.com.
McDonald said his fellow jockeys are committed to following strict biosecurity protocols because they “know a lot of the responsibility lies with us”.
McDonald in August last year gave up his rides at Newcastle while awaiting the results of Covid-19 tests on his three children, all of whom had been suffering from persistent symptoms.
Speaking on Monday, McDonald said that as the most visible human participants in racing, jockeys owed it to themselves and the rest of the industry to keep the sport as safe as possible.
“There’s a lot of people’s livelihoods at stake in tough enough times. The least we can do is abide by the rules…” said McDonald.
Throughout the pandemic, British racing has stressed to the UK government its crucial importance to the rural economy, with around 20,000 people employed by the industry, and the stringent biosecurity measures in place on racecourses to prevent the spread of the virus.
“In racing everybody doesn’t always sing off the same hymn sheet but with this pandemic, I think everybody realises how important it is for all of us to pull together and do our part for an industry that we all make a living out of.
“I think that’s the main reason that, touch wood, everything is running so smoothly,” added McDonald.
It will be interesting to see whether the Jockeys Association of South Africa (JASA) will again attempt legal action in order to allow jockeys unrestricted travel should the NHA not give them permission.