For the time being anyway, racing is scheduled to continue in Australia but Newcastle's premier trainer Kris Lees says a shutdown from the global coronavirus pandemic could have similar ramifications to equine influenza (EI).
COVID-19 has already seen crowds banned from tracks and threatens to halt all meetings across the country, more than a decade on from the costly and devastating EI outbreak which included the cancellation of the 2007 Sydney spring carnival.
"Obviously this [coronavirus] is a lot more serious because it is human related and not horse related, but from a racing perspective it could be very similar to EI," Lees said.
Lees has up to 200 horses in his care spread across stables at Broadmeadow, a farm in the Coalfields and a facility on the Gold Coast.
He employs around 50 staff, including casuals.
"I've got around 120 horses here [at Broadmeadow] and 60 out there [Coalfields]. I'm still set up on the Gold Coast and there's about a dozen there as well," Lees said.
"Staff wise there'd be 50 with all of the casuals. It [the racing industry] is a huge employer Australia wide.
"Safety comes first. We'll put things in place and follow the guidelines for as long as we can. It's business as usual, but we're being a lot more diligent."
Lees was unsure how long racing would keep going, but he remained focused on Friday's Muswellbrook Cup and Saturday's group 1 runners Mugatoo, Mustajeer, Danceteria and Game Of Thorns at Rosehill.
"I'm pretty confident we'll race Saturday, but after that I'm not sure," he said.
If a shutdown occurred, the "welfare of horses" would be paramount. Lees told AAP earlier on Thursday: "We have got contingency plans in place but we're also pretty open to whatever is put in front of us".
Meanwhile, Lees on Thursday advised Racing NSW stewards that El Dorado Dreaming and Red Cardinal would not contest the Autumn carnival.
"El Dorado Dreaming has undergone throat surgery and Red Cardinal has sustained a near-fore suspensory strain," Racing NSW released on social media.
AAP reports: Victorian authorities on Thursday night were still waiting on the result of a coronavirus test for jockey Mark Zahra.
Racing Victoria said if the result was known by 7am Friday, the race meeting at Warrnambool could still go ahead while the twilight meeting at Pakenham could proceed if they knew by midday.
Zahra travelled on a commercial flight from Sydney to Melbourne on March 12 with another passenger subsequently testing positive to COVID-19.
He flew to Sydney last Saturday for the Golden Slipper meeting on a charter flight which also brought jockeys Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry home after they rode in Melbourne on Friday night.
Bowman and Berry have since tested negative after racing was halted on Wednesday, outside a meeting in Narromine, when the matter became known.
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