Virus forces jockeys to split into two groups
Nine star jockeys riding at Moonee Valley on Friday and the Golden Slipper meeting in Sydney on Saturday will be separated from their fellow hoops at both tracks as racing comes to grips with the coronavirus pandemic.
The leading riders, including Hugh Bowman, Damien Oliver, Craig Williams and Tommy Berry, will fly to Sydney on Saturday morning on a chartered plane organised by Williams with help from the Victorian Jockeys' Association.
They will all board a bus straight off the plane when they land in Sydney and go directly to Rosehill where they will remain separated from the other jockeys riding on a massive day of racing featuring five Group 1s worth $6.5 million.
Jordan Childs opted to drive to Sydney where he has just one ride on Mildred in the $3.5 million Golden Slipper, but he will be separated along with the other travellers.
Racing Victoria has banned riders from interstate if they travel on commercial aircraft so Bowman and Berry were driving from Sydney to Melbourne, before flying back on Saturday.
Matt Hyland from the VJA said all riders were prepared to do whatever was required to keep the industry going amidst the pandemic which has shut down racing in the UK.
"The riders should have little or no contact with anyone other than each other until they get on the back of the horse," Hyland said.
"All we can do is try and separate our people as much as possible, contain them to only coming in contact with one another. At least we know their movements, they are moving as one.
"There's a lot of crossover with jockeys, and we are trying to break the groups up as best we can and eliminate as much exposure as we possibly can.
"We are trying to manage them as a collective. We want them to keep themselves as separate as possible, and keep it all at bay."
It's understood that one positive test for coronavirus among the riding ranks would not necessarily bring a halt to the sport.
But more precautions are expected to come in to play from Friday with the jockey ranks set to be split in two and the top tier of riders kept away from trials and trackwork to ensure they were able to ride in races.
The group, which will be determined by the Victorian jockey's premiership table, will also be segregated on race day from the remainder of riders at each meeting.
It's a move which has the backing of the VJA and designed to minimise any risk of exposure to the virus and to ensure racing could continue for as long as possible
"That's the number one priory, that we can keep the sport going," he said.
"I think that's healthy for everyone. It's essential that the industry all work together, all push in the one direction, to try to demonstrate that we are making every effort to avoid the spread of the virus."
Racing Victoria had already raised the minimum weight requirement to 56kg, after a request from the VJA to help protect jockey health.
JOURNEY OFF FOR TASSIE TRAINER
Star Tasmanian mare Mystic Journey will be without her trainer Adam Trinder when she has her first assignment this preparation in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley tonight.
Trinder travelled to Melbourne with the mare on the Spirit of Tasmania on Wednesday night and not long after arriving in Melbourne the trainer was advised the Tasmanian Government had issued a closure of the Tasmanian border effective from midnight tonight.
The State Government declared a State of Emergency yesterday over the spread of the COVID-19 with non-essential travellers coming into the state after midnight tonight having to place themselves in isolation for 14 days.
Trinder said the restrictions were untimely but understandable given the circumstances.
"I must admit it was a shock when I was told this morning about the closure of our border, but it is what it is and I guess we have to continue to do whatever is necessary to restrict this coronavirus from spreading," Trinder said. "The mare travelled extremely well and has settled in well at Tony McEvoy's stables."
Mystic Journey will return to Tasmania by sea tomorrow night. Mystic Journey's Victoria-based rider Anthony Darmanin is booked on a flight to Hobart tonight that will have him back in the state inside the self-isolation deadline.
With Peter Staples
MAHER CAMP UPBEAT ABOUT SLIPPER COLT
Exciting colt Prague has the X-factor to deliver Golden Slipper glory amid a four-pronged Golden Slipper attack for training duo Ciaron Maher and David Eustace who have been unimpeded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Maher and Eustace were forced to scratch one-time race favourite Cellsabeel on Thursday morning after the filly pulled up poorly from track work.
But the mention of Prague, which remains $15 in TAB betting for the $3.5 Group 1 classic, brings smile to Maher's face who said the well-bred son of Redoute's Choice had "untapped" ability.
"He hasn't put it all together mentally yet but he's an impressive horse," Maher said of the colt which has won three of four starts, including the Group 3 Pago Pago Stakes over 1200m at Rosehill last Saturday
"He's just winning on raw ability at the moment and when he puts it all together, hopefully it's Saturday, he's got that X-factor."
There are five Group 1s at Rosehill on Saturday but Maher and Eustace have put all their eggs in the Golden Slipper basket without a runner in the other four.
Eustace said Muntaseera and Rathlin might struggle to contest with the boom crop of two-year-olds they'll be racing against in the 1200m Slipper.
But he was equally as enthusiastic about Prague as his training partner.
"We're hoping Prague is peaking at the right time," Eustace said.
"He's the horse that's still improving, still learning a bit. But we think the backup from last Saturday will really suit him and he's come through that win well."
Eustace said the stable hadn't been impacted by extra precautions around the coronavirus pandemic.
"We've been careful with outside personnel coming into the stable. But staff have done everything that has been asked of them and it makes life easier for us," he said.
The training duo will both fly to Sydney for Saturday's meeting on commercial flights, confident there wouldn't be an issue.
Eustace said the stable would need to do some investigating in to the injury suffered by Cellsabeel but were hopeful she would return to racing in the spring.
With Russell Gould
Originally published as Virus forces jockeys to split into two groups