New Zealand racing will make a surprise return on Tuesday as the greyhound code resumes with meetings six days before originally scheduled.

And while that will restart the big machine that is New Zealand racing, the two more popular codes of harness and thoroughbred racing will not be back on track for another month and two months respectively.

Subscribe to Premium

There has been no New Zealand racing since before the country went into Covid-19 level 3 lockdown and while racing bosses were hopeful of being able to hold race meetings without crowds at level 3, no meetings were originally scheduled until May 11, the day New Zealand may be told we are reverting to level 2.

Because greyhounds race over only short distances and need a lot less fitness work than horses, the code is now scheduled to hold meetings at Addington in Christchurch and Palmerston North next Tuesday.


Both meetings are likely to be 12-race cards over sprint distances and Canterbury trainers will be able to trial dogs at Addington this week.

"We only got our Government approval yesterday and then had to work through the logistics of broadcasting the races with Rita [formerly known as the TAB]," said Greyhound Racing New Zealand racing manager Michael Dore.

"That all seems fine now so we are confident we can race next Tuesday and then have regular racing from then on." Greyhound racing will be divided into three regions: Northern (Manukau and Cambridge), Central (Palmerston North and Whanganui) and the South Island, which will race only at Addington for the next few months.

"The regions have been put in place to negate the need for travel," says Dore.

With no jockeys, greyhound racing is easier to implement social distancing at, with small changes such as the dogs being placed in the starting boxes two at a time, rather than in two lots of four, part of the new protocols.

One area in which it is slightly trickier to implement social distancing is when the dogs finish their races, as often eight dogs converge on the artificial lure, which will require their handlers securing their dogs one at a time.

Although a Tuesday afternoon greyhound meeting would usually be of scant interest to many punters, the return of any form of racing will be a welcome relief to the racing industry and start domestic turnover dribbling in.

The two equine codes will take longer to make their returns as horses need longer to be brought up to race fitness so harness racing will resume on May 29 and thoroughbred meetings on July 3.