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Fight to keep NZ training tracks open

As head of the New Zealand Trainers Association, Tony Pike is negotiating to keep training tracks open in the interests of horse welfare.

New Zealand trainer Tony Pike has left three horses in Sydney to continue their autumn campaigns as he leads the fight to keep facilities open at home.

The Bostonian, Sherwood Forest and Not An Option will continue to race over the autumn carnival for local trainers while Australian racing continues under strict biosecurity protocols.

Pike is president of the New Zealand Trainers Association and is in discussions to keep training tracks open while racing across the Tasman is on hold for a month because of the coronavirus crisis.

Pike is adamant NZ training tracks need to remain open throughout the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown on animal welfare grounds.

He has a stable of around 80 horses and is keen for tracks to remain open to keep horses ticking over, albeit on a reduced scale.

"I have been working really closely with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and also have a couple of vets on board as well, just from an animal welfare point of view," Pike told NZ Racing Desk.

"We are waiting for clarification as to whether we can carry on training,"

Like many stables, Pike has already implemented strict staff protocols to minimise human interaction.

"We have split our staff into teams of two and they're working three days on and three days off," he said.

"We still need people in the stable as horses have got to stay ticking over.

"There are distancing requirements, with riders down one end and ground staff the other.

"We hope to keep the training tracks open on some sort of scale to get some exercise into the horses.

"From a health and animal welfare point of view it is pretty hard having a fit racehorse standing in the box 24 hours a day, without any form of significant exercise."

Pike said around half his horses would head to paddocks.

"There have been a lot of horses that have been picked up today or that are being picked up tomorrow and we will probably be down to 40 horses," he said.

"Nationally, trying to have 1500 horses out spelling on agistment farms is pretty much logistically impossible.

"We've got 16 acres here but it is not a lot of land and we are keen to keep the horses ticking over that need full work, so they are ready to go when racing does start up again in two or three months.

"There is not enough room to spell every horse.

"It is definitely an animal welfare case as it is logistically impossible to house them all at spelling farms.

"The horses that are left in the stables will need some form of exercise in the next month and we are prepared to work in and adhere to strict protocols to ensure that we can keep things ticking over for the safety of everyone, horses and humans."


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