Sport

Racing | Echuca set for Sunday meeting

By Shepparton News

The brave new world hits Echuca Racing Club on Sunday, with the club’s first meeting since the outbreak of Covid-19.

But there will still be a strong local contingent flying the Echuca-Moama flag.

With runners from Gwenda Johnstone, the Cornish and Gaskin stable, Michael Newton and Rhys and Daryl Archard, adding to a strong Melbourne contingent with the likes of Mick Price, James Cummings and Michelle Payne, the event will have some strong fields.

The Cornish-Gaskin-trained Georgia’s Host will be one to watch in the eighth, the 1400 m Think Water Power Echuca BM70 Handicap, coming in with a hot run of form since late November.

In her past five runs, the five-year-old mare has been in the thick of it on every occasion, claiming three seconds and a third, capped with a 1.5 length win at Werribee on January 11.

At her most recent run, just days ago on March 30 at Swan Hill, she was pipped by just 0.8 of a length.

Trainer Mick Cornish said the recent rain would provide the noted mudrunner with an extra advantage on her home track.

“She’s a nice little mare,” he said.

“She loves a wet track, last time she ran on heavy ground was a really strong performance, so hopefully we will see it again.

“She’s tough, she’s honest and, best of all, she will be down around 7 kg on her previous start and we expect her to really hit the line hard.”

Cornish said the uncertain fate of racing had made the decision to run the five-year-old just a week after her previous outing an easy one “given the current dynamics of the sport”.

“We weren’t worried about backing her up,” he said.

“She’s in really good form and everything will suit her. The reality is we typically would have given her more time between runs, but we’re uncertain about when we will be back out there.

“This could all be over tomorrow, we’re all working on borrowed time as an industry now, so we have to get the job done.

“We have full faith in what she brings to the table and her ability to back up like this, so I think where trainers have that confidence, you are going to see a lot more of this for a while.”

Sunday’s event will be closed to the public, but will be televised on racing.com.

● Echuca Racing Club is moving towards meeting new restrictions surrounding coronavirus.

Club general manager Garry Armstrong said difficult, but necessary, changes were being made ahead of Sunday afternoon's meeting.

“We've put plans in place for how we are going to meet the protocol,” he said.

“The industry has been able to provide strong intel based off the meetings they have already run under these protocols, and we are moving to adjust our track accordingly.

“There are some things which will take time, we need to get our entries and jockey list before we can put the final pieces in place.”

One of the key initiatives will be temperature testing the few industry members attending Sunday's event.

“Sunday's meeting will be attended strictly by essential members of the industry,” he said.

“People like jockeys, barrier attendants, veterinarians and the like — only those who are truly essential to the running of the meeting will be allowed to enter the club on the day. Owners won't be there, nor will the general public.

“Every single person who walks into the club will be temperature tested before they gain admission. We will be making sure correct social distancing is also taking place when people are in our facilities.

“Racing has held up through this crisis so far because we have made sure that we meet every regulation that has been put in place, and continuing to do so is the only way we get to see it remain in place for the foreseeable future.”

While Armstrong is battling hard to keep his club in line, he's well aware that there is no other option — for his club, or for the wider industry.

“If we don't meet the protocols, we don't race,” he said.

“No-one is immune to this situation and no-one in the industry is getting ahead of themselves either. We are well aware that this is a day-by-day proposition as it stands.

“We are in an incredibly lucky position where racing is a solitary sport in many ways, it means we can make these protocols work and it means we can keep as many people employed in our industry in work.

“But we are also incredibly aware how quickly it could change, so we are doing all the work we can to stay in competition.”