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The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on world health and no industry has been left unaffected. The vast majority of businesses are still experiencing difficulties that are preventing them from thriving, and horse racing is no different. When the lockdowns began, the horse racing industry, which had been bringing in crowds in the many thousands, was forced to a grinding halt.

COVID-19 has put a great number of people in the horse racing industry in survival mode. Horse racing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Many other industries depend on horse races, such as bookmaking, catering, and security, meaning many more people are impacted than just those directly involved.

Horse racing was one of the first sports to resume following a strict lockdown, but this doesn’t mean things have gone back to normal. Strict guidelines dictate how a race day will operate while maintaining social distancing. Some races were postponed substantially while others have been able to operate without spectators. Like many businesses in this new normal, it’s hard to predict and it’s a matter of taking it one race at a time. The Kentucky Derby, the US’s oldest continuously held sporting event, was postponed from May to September, an occurrence which would have been inconceivable before the year 2020.

Operating without spectators isn’t an easy fix to the solution. Many tracks have been forced to close down again after jockeys have tested positive for COVID-19. When this occurs, the individual must isolate for 10 days before resuming. The impact on jockeys has been difficult, especially for those on the lower end of the pay scale who are sometimes living from race to race.

COVID-19 hasn’t just proved difficult at the race track. Bookmakers are a significant portion of the industry. In addition to fears of the virus preventing many people from going in to place bets as they normally did, many people simply lack the funds to do so. With major events being canceled, bookmakers are struggling to make up for the loss with other online betting activities such as virtual races.

Many people forget that this has had a considerable impact on the owners of the horses themselves. Like many businesses that have been put on hold, expenses continue to pile up. Just because horses aren’t racing doesn’t mean they don’t still need to be stabled, fed and exercised, with a staff employed for their care. This has led many horse owners to quit in the first half of 2020, and this is a loss that will have to be made up for over time.

It’s important to remember that while the pandemic’s impact has been devastating, it’s difficult to predict what the true effect will be in the long term. One thing is for sure, however, and that is that the public’s interest in horse racing hasn’t waned. This means it’s not a matter of if the industry will bounce back, but when.