Stable assistants wearing protective masks lead horses past empty seats ahead of a race, closed to spectators due to the coronavirus, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Picture: PAUL YEUNG / BLOOMBERG
Stable assistants wearing protective masks lead horses past empty seats ahead of a race, closed to spectators due to the coronavirus, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Picture: PAUL YEUNG / BLOOMBERG

For the majority of 2019, Adrian Todd, MD of SA Equine Health & Protocols, has found himself what snooker players term as being “stuck behind the eight-ball”.

Todd has had one goal in his sights — the establishment of long-term sustainable equine exports and international movement controls. There is an arduous journey via Mauritius to get SA racehorses to Europe.

At February’s Asian Racing Conference in Cape Town, Todd was delighted to reveal that his hard work had finally paid dividends — the EU had agreed on an audit date of April 20.

Now Todd has encountered another unforeseen obstacle — the Covid-19 virus which has put the spanner in the works of the date of the proposed audit.

Commenting on the latest development, Todd said: “The pre-audit scheduled for last week by the Asian Racing Federation and the Hong Kong Jockey Club has been postponed due to government travel restrictions. The official EU audit scheduled for April 20 is currently being reassessed regarding the date.

“Regarding exports we have been assured the audit will take place as soon as it is safely possible.

“The SAEHP [SA Equine Health & Protocols] is working in conjunction with the department of agriculture, forestry & fisheries and the EU auditors to explore the development of procedures that will allow as many of the presentations and record keeping assessments to be conducted remotely via video conference before the physical visit.

“We will have to await the resumption of international travel as our country works to restore the economy after Covid-19. The ability to trade horses internationally will become even more important to the survival of our industry.

“Given the domestic movement restrictions, the SAEHP will continue with remote assessment of systems and ensure that we remain compliant with international equine disease risk mitigation measures.

“When it is safe to travel, we will get very little notice of the physical audit starting. It is imperative, therefore, that we maintain a state of preparation and we do not drop standards.

“This is a pivotal moment for our industry. In recent days, we have seen racing stand united and do everything possible to take the necessary measures to make sure racing operated in as safe a manner as possible.

“We, the racing industry, have to work together to protect racing’s participants — we have to save ourselves,” Todd said.

• Saturday’s $12m Dubai World Cup — originally set to be run without spectators — has been postponed due to the coronavirus. Several top horses from the US are now stuck in that country.