Local horse racing is betting on itself.
The Barbados Turf Club’s chief executive officer Rosette Peirce anticipates that the industry will witness no direct job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the BTC aims to keep the track open while rescheduling the upcoming race days later in the year.
Peirce gave the assurance in a telephone interview with Barbados TODAY despite having to suspend the ongoing season for three months following the announcement of Barbados’ first two coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
“Yes we expect people are going to be financially impacted, but it will likely be on reduced incomes and not job loss because the good thing is that we plan to keep the track open on mornings from Monday to Saturday so people can still earn their money,” Peirce explained.
“Of course some horses will head back out to farm but the majority of the horses will remain at the track and the eight race days we were about to lose I have already reworked those days to the latter part of the year so that we won’t be losing income from the loss of racing.
“And we already had scheduled a track upgrade for later September and October with the hopes of resuming racing from November 21st, so now we can just move up those works now that racing is suspended anyway,” she added.
It’s the much welcomed news facing Barbados’ only professional sport in light of a global pandemic that has seen the suspension or cancellation of nearly every major international sporting league.
The ongoing NBA season was put on pause a week ago when Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 while the NHL, MLB and the ATP followed suit in the suspension of their operations.
As such, those multi million dollar organisations have already started to see some major loss in revenue.
But local groomsman Corey “Big Head” McDonald agrees with Peirce, having said that those directly employed in the local horse racing industry shouldn’t be severely impacted by the economic pinch.
“Maybe it might get hard in the next two months but right now we shouldn’t really feel it because if there are say 100 horses at the track then 60 will probably stay and some of the guys have already gone on vacation,” McDonald explained.
“The track isn’t closed totally as yet and even if those horses go to farm many of them will be taken to the sea and that is extra pay for the guys who handle the horses.
“Maybe the losses will be felt at the level of the trainers and owners but I believe we should be okay once the track isn’t closed entirely,” he added.
With mass gatherings of 100 or more people being discouraged, domestic sports such as netball, volleyball, football and basketball have all suspended their ongoing seasons.
However, the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championships were forced to cancel their finals altogether and the BTC nearly followed suit with the upcoming nine race days.
But Peirce found a way to reschedule those days considering the industry directly employs more than 300 people including jockeys, handlers, groomsmen and trainers.
“When the announcement came the initial thought was to cancel racing this Saturday because of course our priority is the health and safety of all those in horse racing even if the financial fallout might be great,” said Peirce.
“But as I said we decided to rework those days and move forward the scheduled upgrade for the track so we can simply suspend racing for those three months. We will have some further conversation during that time, monitor the situation as it unfolds and then review the decision after the three months before coming to another decision.”