The Australian Horses’ Union has questioned the new temporary rules set to be applied to this year’s Melbourne Cup because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The AHU said the new rules foreshadowed by the race organiser, the Victorian Racing Club, failed to strike a balance between race safety and the interests of union members.
AHU national secretary Edward “Neddy” Ed (main picture) said the union was especially concerned about social distancing requirements to be imposed by the VRC.
“The 2020 Melbourne Cup will not be run in front of the usual crowd of thousands of race fans and those who are present at the Flemington track will need to abide by strict social distancing rules,” Mr Ed said.
“Unfortunately the social distancing rules as written by the VRC apply to the entire Flemington Racecourse precinct, including our members.
“So from the stables, to the starting gate, and along every metre of the track until the finishing post and beyond our members are obliged to keep 1.5 metres apart.
“That’s grossly unfair to members of the AHU who’ll be racing in the Cup. It’s effectively an additional handicap because any horse running first will likely take the Cup because others behind it won’t be able to pass it unless they stay 1.5 metres away.
“It’s not impossible but it makes it far more difficult and strenuous, not to mention far more dangerous as they are forced to go wide.
“There’s a good chance many of our members might sustain serious strain injuries or even worse as a result as they exert far beyond what’s necessary to win the Cup in any other year.”
Mr Ed said his fears of a higher injury rate for runners in the 2020 Melbourne Cup were reinforced by information from within the VRC that it had bought additional mobile screens and shotguns for on-track stewards in time for the 3 November race.