Racing bosses are set to announce further restrictions on both equine codes to keep the industry working through the Covid-19 threat.

But they're hopeful that will enable racing to continue even if the national alert level moves to level three.

Racing continued around the country over the weekend with racetracks now classed as workplaces, only open to horsepeople and essential staff.

Officials at NZ Thoroughbred Racing and Harness Racing NZ were satisfied by the industry buy-in but are planning their next steps to keep racing participants, and the wider community, safe and the industry sustainable.


They have one advantage in that no crowds mean fewer staff are needed and the actual action takes place outdoors. "We are confident there was no time at either of our meetings on Saturday when there would have been 100 people indoors and definitely not in the same area," said NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry. "But we will try and reduce that even more."

Racing bosses are confident they would still race, with even greater restrictions, should the Government move to level three. But the Herald understands new measures today will see them impose greater restrictions on moving between islands, meaning harness racing drivers must adhere to the same one-island quarantine as jockeys.

The codes will also look at the potential to reduce the number of tracks raced at to make it easier to enforce protocols and reduce travel.

That will be easier in harness racing, where effectively Addington could race three times a week if it had to, whereas a thoroughbred track couldn't sustain that wear and tear.

But nationwide there could be a push to create regional racing with less movement between the areas, which is why the Manawatu harness meeting this week has been called off as it would have required horses and horsepeople from both islands.

"That was a decision made about that specific meeting for its unique circumstances but is not indicative of the entire industry," said HRNZ boss Peter Jensen.

What could also change quickly is the racing calendar. HRNZ is understood to be looking at whether a Friday night meeting could move to another day to maximise turnover by stopping clashes and providing races on nights when there was no other sport on television.

The next big question will be whether Australian racing is allowed to continue as states there start to close their borders, but again the indications are good as Governments there understand racing is a business.