Rugby and racing could lead the way as Hawke's Bay tries to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While in the hands of the Government, with no end to the crippling alert level 4 lockdown yet in sight, the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union is focused on getting club and schools rugby "community" under way as soon as possible.

The union is also eyeing a potential July start for a "Magpies" campaign with several home games at McLean Park, Napier, in a possible revised-format Mitre 10 Cup national rugby championship.

Hawke's Bay Racing, which had to cancel its last four race days of the 2019-2020 season, including last Saturday's $75,000 Power Farming Hawke's Bay Cup and the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase and Hurdles races on June 27, is now working to celebrate the return of racing in Hastings with the Spring Racing Carnival.


Alert level 2 would enable events without public attendance and Level 1 would be governed by restrictions barring mass gatherings of over 500 people.

Both rugby union CEO Jay Campbell and racing's acting CEO Tim Gillespie each see their big events as important to re-establishing normality.

Gillespie is former Auckland Racing chief finance and operating officer who holds the reins in the non-racing coronavirus environment pending the arrival of newly-appointed CEO Darin Balcombe.

Planning has to continue, but Gillespie said: "There's only so much we can do. We've just got to park a lot of that to wait until there's some guidance. What form it will take is the great unknown."

Campbell said: "I think sport has a way of bring communities together. We're all focused on making it the best we can"

Gillespie said the country would need to be at alert level 2 or better before it could consider resuming racing, but the industry will need to gear itself up with national body New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing tentatively targeting July 1 for a restart.

He said Hawke's Bay "as a whole" had strongly supported the Spring Racing Carnival in the past, in particular the Daffodil Day cancer fundraiser which has opened the carnival each year since 2014, and then on the last day featuring the Spring Classic, which as the Kelt Capital Stakes, was once the richest race in New Zealand.

The classic last year had a big drawcard in new turf star Melody Belle which became the first horse to complete a Hawke's Bay weight-for-age Triple Crown cleansweep over the main races on each day of the carnival, and also become the most prolific winner at the top level of Group 1 races in New Zealand.

Opie Bosson aboard Melody Belle, winner of the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings Spring Racing Carnival last October. Photo / Ian Cooper
Opie Bosson aboard Melody Belle, winner of the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings Spring Racing Carnival last October. Photo / Ian Cooper

Hawke's Bay Racing hopes the carnival would relaunch racing in the region in the festival style important to helping the community recover from the Covid-19 lockdown.

Current Covid-19 testing occurrence reporting trends are offering some hope, with officials warning against any form of complacency under the level 4 regime which focuses on eradication.

There is a continued decline in the number of people testing positive to the virus despite increasing numbers of tests but officials warn that any breach of the "stay home" and "social distancing" controls could spark new outbreaks, and an extension of the level 4 alert.