Corona Virus and racing Or “Love in the time Corona” with apologies to Marquez

2007’s Equine Flu was a body blow to our ‘betting on horses’ industry. Simply put, lots of punters just didn’t return to racing when it was over late 2007, having discovering staying at home.

I fear this “closed door” racing occasioned by government regulations in response to this Corona virus will have a similar effect in long term to racecourse betting.

I found it illuminating to review what happened to Australian racing in the 1919 flu epidemic. That influenza, appears to me, to be a more serious virus – maybe a hundred million died world-wide, 18,000 in Australia (actually a small number by comparison), contrasting with Corona which appears to be, perhaps, under control already in China and South Korea (of course, there may be relapses, when the strong controls are lifted).

Early 1919 the NSW and Federal Governments issued many draconian proclamations (for instance a £10 fine [perhaps equivalent of $2000 today] for not wearing a disinfected face mask) amongst which, race meetings were prohibited (and cinemas, theatres and billiard saloons but not cricket matches).

A few days later the Victoria followed suit.

The ban only lasted a month in NSW, Victoria it was five weeks.

Unfortunately, racing was again stopped on April 7th.

At that stage, train passengers had their temperatures before they could exit their station. No interstate visits. Foreign boat passengers put into strict quarantine. It had been planned to use Randwick as a makeshift hospital.

Racing was allowed to restart May 8th 1919. Three months without racing.

I fear this “private” racing will be at least a three-months break as well. Could be a year. And might be stopped altogether, if a jockey, say, came down with the lurgy (I’d be furiously testing temperatures of all participants at the racecourse gate).

A big sufferer will the yearling industry. It was in 1919, the average was down 30% from 166½ guineas to 118 guineas ($247.8 in 1919 money, say $24,000 in todays) [if the basic wage was £3/10 or $7 in 1919 and it is now $700, that’s a 100-fold increase. Under my beloved ‘rule of 72’ {you divide an interest rate into 72 to determine how long it takes for money to double} 10% inflation would produce seven doubles about 100-fold].

Moreover, the 1919 pass-in rate was huge. A disaster.

I think the same will happen if this year’s upcoming Easter Sale goes ahead. A prospective bloodbath. A big mistake. Madness. Suicide.

But from my wife, Gai’s, point-of-view, the sale is huge opportunity for her and her owners. Yearlings that are sold will be half price. Great prizemoney about and few buyers. Gai is on to it. A big opportunity for Gai and Adrian.

From my own selfish self, I had hoped bookies and punters could gather somewhere on the racecourse (in the open air would be healthiest). Far end of the grandstand or in one of the pavilions or in the centre or on the other side of the course – the 800 mark. No catering. No staff. Only us die-hards will turn up.

The rule is only 500 are allowed at a venue. But the racecourse is big enough to have two ‘venues’. One thing for certain, the betting ring would be under the 500 limit. More like 40 brave souls.

One Reply to “Corona Virus and racing Or “Love in the time Corona” with apologies to Marquez”

  1. This is actually a big opportunity for the racing industry. With little sport to bet on, we can bring punters back to racing. If the racing can only be watched from home, so be it. Now is the time for the industry to promote racing as the only game in town.

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