Hunter jockeys Sammie Clenton and Andrew Gibbons will give up championship final rides because of new zoning regulations, but they are glad just to be still working during the coronavirus pandemic.
Clenton was set to ride Country Championship final joint favourite Ligulate in the $500,000 race on April 4, while Gibbons was eyeing a chance on Enchanted Heart in the Provincial decider a week later, also at Randwick.
However, Racing NSW guidelines to be implemented from Friday will mean jockeys must ride only at meetings in their selected regions. The state will be broken into south/west, north and metropolitan zones to limit the travel and interaction of riders in the face of the coronavirus crisis which has halted all other professional sport in Australia.
Clenton, the leading apprentice in NSW, and Gibbons have selected north, which takes in provincial tracks Gosford, Wyong and Newcastle as well as country courses in the Hunter North-West, Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers regions.
Clenton said losing the ride on the Cody Morgan-trained Ligulate was "the biggest kick in the guts" but he was now in the "very good hands" of in-form English hoop Tom Marquand.
"I'm going to stick to the north area," Clenton said. "We mightn't be racing in two weeks, who knows, but if this goes on for six months, this is the smartest thing for me."
Gibbons, the leading Newcastle rider last season, said the change could be beneficial for him in the long run.
"If it hadn't have been coming into the championships, it would have been no drama at all for me," Gibbons said. "All it's costing me is a ride in the provincial final. I was probably going to ride Enchanted Heart, which I obviously can't do now.
"All I lose are rides at Kembla and Hawkesbury, which aren't my main provincial tracks, and I'm probably going to get more rides at Gosford and Wyong because the Sydney boys can't come.
"I'd rather this than do nothing and get called off. At least we are still racing."
City jockeys are allowed at trackwork on Tuesdays only, but others are not restricted.
Mitchell Bell, Rory Hutchings, Lee Magorrian, Jeff Penza, Grant Buckley and Christian Reith are believed to be among those who have selected the north zone.