Horse racing fans face a year long wait before the sport returns

New Zealand horse racing is facing months of cancellations as the battle against the Covid-19 crisis wages on.

Talks are being held every second day with officials from New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing to devise a strategy on a return once the lockdown is lifted.

NZ Thoroughbred racing CEO Bernard Saundry says the sport will be visibly different once it makes a return.

"It's fair to say it will look very different when we come back, there will be a new normal, there is financial stress right throughout the business," he said.

With many horses around the country being spelled, preparation to get them back into racing condition could take up to six to twelve months, as horses can only be lightly worked within a small group of trainers under the current isolation rules.

For three-time premiership winning training combination, Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, a return to racing poses many challenges, with over 100 horses needing attention.

Forsman said the lockdown ruled out a realistic method of keeping horses in shape.

"The more it became it a reality and the closer we got to a lock down as such, we soon realised that it wasn’t going to be something we could actually practically make work and it just wasn’t going to happen." 

Forsman also said a return next season will require a complex training plan.

"We will probably have to stagger things. I guess we'll be lucky we'll be coming back into things perhaps around the start of the new season so once we get that lined up we can start making plans."

In one positive, however, racing bosses are refusing to rule out holding "super Saturday" type meetings, where the top races that were missed could all still be run concurrently.

"It's an opportunity to think differently around our programme, our allocation of race dates and clearly, whatever we do we've gotta drive wagering turnover and participation."