Greg Cheyne, East Cape champion for the last three seasons and 62 winners clear this term, will continue to ride at every Fairview meeting as well as meet his Cape Town commitments despite the NHA’s request that jockeys and trainers should avoid air travel.
This was issued shortly after 4.00pm on Friday by which time Cheyne had already made the switch from plane to car and had driven the 750k from Cape Town the previous day. “It took me eight hours,” he said yesterday. “Coming back I split the journey in half, stopping over in Mossel Bay, and driving the other half on Saturday morning before riding at Durbanville.”
Cheyne is second on the national log with 136 winners and 97 have of these have come at Fairview, almost all through his association with Alan Greeff. M.J. Byleveld, also a Fairview regular, issued a statement to the Sporting Post on Saturday as spokesman for the Coastal Jockeys Association. This said that the jockeys will abide by the NHA request and added: “Some of the guys have already made plans to rearrange their riding commitments and to curtail regular travel.”
NHA chief executive Vee Moodley’s statement, issued in conjunction with the operators and others, did not give a specific must-obey instruction but said they “discourage all air travel of industry participants entering racecourses and training establishments countrywide, subject to the 14-day isolation period being complied with.
“We appeal to all persons involved in the racing industry to act responsibly and with integrity as your conduct and commitment is paramount to the continuation of racing fixtures. The established high risk element of airports, and the severity of the CoronaVirus, necessitates such drastic measures.”
The statement takes effect from today and follows hot on the heels of a front-page article in last Thursday’s Sporting Post. This called for urgent action to stop the infection risk posed by travelling jockeys and out-of-province grooms accompanying interprovincial raiders. It was backed up by Summerveld trainer Garth Puller saying: “We need to shut down the interprovincial movement flow immediately.”
Several Cape Town trainers could see the shutters coming down on their plans for the Durban season and Justin Snaith said: “It caused a bit of a scare among all of us. People have changed their float dates and horses are now en route.”
Snaith has already arranged to spend four months in Durban without coming home but several other trainers had planned to fly backwards and forwards. They could drive – at a considerable cost in terms of time – but the journey takes too long for jockeys. Regular visits from the likes of Durban-based Anton Marcus, Keagan de Melo and Donovan Dillon (plus Craig Zackey) may become a thing of the past, at least until CoronaVirus is no longer seen as such a threat to life.
By Michael Clower