Racing

Walker still concerned

Kiwi trainer hopes more race meetings will be staged to boost owners' confidence

With the loss of about 30 race meetings since the racing lockdown in April that impacted all stables and owners - big or small - the July 11 restart button has brought back the smiles.

But some feel we're not out of the woods yet: The spectre of a pandemic relapse still hovers.

Three-time Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker, who handles large numbers of horses, year in year out, for one, is more worried about that old chestnut of supply and demand.

"I'm relieved more than anything we will race again, but I also have mixed feelings about the two meetings in July," said the New Zealander.

"With the makeshift programme made up of 1,000m, 1,100m and 1,200m mainly, the fields should be full. There are a lot of horses who would want to run.

"That's why a lot of horses will be balloted out and I understand owners if they feel frustrated. They have been very patient during the lockdown.

"But, sooner or later, their patience will wear thin.

"I know the club has worked hard to get the races back, but we need to have more meetings. The sooner we return to normality, the better it will be."

Walker felt that owners don't have the confidence right now to buy horses under these circumstances. There is too much uncertainty. Their businesses have already taken a big hit with the Covid-19.

"Some of them have left me," he said. "It's very challenging times and I'm worried the worst is still to come. These are unprecedented times, and the last thing a businessman needs now is a racehorse.

"I've lost 15 horses and I'm leasing those that some owners have left behind.

"The problem is also in finding replacements, as we can't get horses out of Australia and New Zealand. Nobody's buying horses."

But, despite the hard times the racing fraternity has fallen on, the human factor has been safeguarded by most.

"All the jobs are safe," said Walker. "Some went back to Malaysia, but their jobs are waiting for them when they return.

"They have families to feed and it was important for me to make sure nobody loses his job."

One category who, however, felt jobless during the lockdown were Australian jockeys Daniel Moor, Michael Rodd, Patrick Moloney and New Zealand lass Alysha Collett.

They flew to Australia to continue riding, instead of waiting for Singapore racing to resume.

HORSE RACING