Owner Kevin Gordon believes he has another group 1 winner on his hands in Lochinvar Chief, even if the two-year-old is denied a chance to prove him right in Bathurst's Gold Crown carnival finale on Saturday night.
The meeting, featuring the Gold Crown, Tiara, Chalice and Bracelet, is in danger of being postponed or abandoned because of the suspension of harness racing.
Harness Racing NSW called off meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week while awaiting coronavirus tests from a steward.
HRNSW said on Wednesday that a Penrith Harness Racing Club employee, who attended a meeting at their track last Thursday, had tested positive for coronavirus. However, HRNSW said "there was no opportunity for any contact to occur between the Penrith employee or any licensee before, during or after the race meeting".
Victorian harness racing has been suspended until Saturday at the earliest because of the NSW case.
If the test from the steward is negative, it appears racing will resume on Friday and Newcastle will host its meeting on Saturday night.
The focus, though, will be on Bathurst, where Lochinvar Chief was the $1.85 TAB favourite for the two-year-old colts and geldings decider, the Gold Crown.
Gordon, a Lake Macquarie businessman with close ties to harness and greyhound racing, owns the Victorian-trained gelding, which was second in the group 2 Sapling Stakes at Menangle this month. He also owns Chariots of Fire champion and Miracle Mile runner-up Lochinvar Art, which is a three-time group 1 winner.
Gordon is confident Lochinvar Chief will also grab a group 1 win at Bathurst.
"We drew barrier two and I think he will go very close," Gordon said.
"We thought from the day that we broke him in that he's a hot little prospect.
"He's very immature, looking at his first few starts, and he only looked a serious racehorse last Friday night in the heats. He's just improving all the time, so it's nice to have another good one."
New border restrictions mean trainer-driver David Moran, who returned to Victoria after the heats, will not steer Lochinvar Chief on Saturday night. The pacer is staying with Menangle trainer Jarrod Alchin, who will likely take the reins in the final.
"Jarrod's been working him and he's driven him twice in races so he's certainly the right person," Gordon said.
He said Lochinvar Chief would return to Moran in Victoria after the race to prepare for the group 1 Australian Pacing Gold series.
Lochinvar Art's plans, though, are likely to change because of the new guidelines. He returned to Victoria after the Miracle Mile with the intention of next racing at the four-year-old championship at Wagga next month. As it stands, he will not be allowed to return to NSW.
Gordon believed harness racing should follow the lead of Greyhound Racing NSW and postpone all feature races because of the inability to host the best from interstate and New Zealand.
"I think the fairest thing for harness racing to do is continue racing but abandon all feature racing because they are not going to be real features," he said. "You are going to have multiple horses not available."
HRNSW statement below:
HRNSW advises that the person who was in attendance at the Penrith Harness meeting on Thursday 19 March 2020 who had previously been in direct contact with another individual outside of the harness racing industry who was confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus, is an employee of the Penrith Harness Racing Club.
HRNSW also advises that the Penrith employee has since tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Further, it has been established by HRNSW that the employee of the Penrith Harness Racing Club was not in physical contact with any trainers, drivers or stablehands at the Penrith harness meeting on Thursday 19 March 2020.
For clarity, there was no opportunity for any contact to occur between the Penrith employee or any licensee before, during or after the race meeting.
Until the results of a COVID-19 test taken from a HRNSW Steward are known, HRNSW will continue to treat this matter with the utmost priority for the wellbeing of participants, personnel and the wider community.
HRNSW will provide further updates once all consequential information is known.
HRNSW reminds all industry participants of the available industry support program.
Information provided to the community in relation to COVID-19 can be found at the following link: