LAHORE: The mood in the Lahore horseracing circles is sombre these days as clouds of uncertainty looms large over the future of equine sport.
The owners and breeders here are greatly worried and distressed due to closure of the horseracing activities following the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Subsequently, the sport was suspended as necessitated step following the government clamped for a lockdown on March 14 for safety and protection of the people from the killer virus.
Since then the horsemen are feeling the pinch of the sport halt which took place right in the middle of the Lahore Winter Meeting was in full swing and every owner or trainer was hoping for a reward of his toil ln sharing the slices of the prize-money cake.
Horse owners while talking to Dawn on Saturday said they had conditioned their bloodstock spending huge amounts of money after buying colts and fillies. Some affluent owners imported fillies and colts at huge costs while hoping they will be compensated by winning laurels but the breakout of the virus has dashed their dreams.
They said their woes do not end here. On the one hand majority of owners who are not so affluent are under duress for the incurring expenditure to maintain their bloodstock without any return for over three and a half months while on the other it added to their woes in the shape of buying fodder and grain — which are offered in the market at higher price than before.
The government had taken a generous step by twice reducing price of gasoline and petroleum products but it made little effect on the prices of grain, feed and fodder.
They lamented the monopolistic trends and cartels had such a strong grip which look the likely symptoms of the malady affecting food and agriculture. This situation, according to their analysis, may be the likely result of misguided policies and action taken in the past that is a clear indication.
They said the agri-market is a paradoxical one. Each new sign of distress leads to new action usually leads to new distress. Efforts to stabilize prices often fail to yield positivity, including the steps like price-support programme and the export of subsidies.
They said unfair and disruptive trade practices have become a standard which needs to be dealt with heavy hand under the laws. The problem might not be described in a manner looking overwhelming, the outlook is not totally dismal. The remedy is possible with the cooperation of all players working in a right direction with a goal to alleviate people sufferings, particularly at this juncture when the entire nation is faced with a threat of a hidden enemy cloaked in a deadly Covid-19.
Speaking to Dawn, former steward of Lahore Race Club, Fawad Ahmad Cheema, said the halt of horseracing — following the spread of killer virus — happened at a time when the country’s horseracing and breeding industry was moving towards highly professionalism and standardization.
The LRC had after a two-decade gradual progress under the long tenure of its former chairman Tariq Aziz blossomed into a fine institution with an all-weather day night racing facility worth international standards.
Tariq had laid a strong economic base with plenty of financial reserves in the club’s coffers which are being now utilized as a cushion to absorb the shocks enabling the management anchor the club ship out of dire situation to safety.
Horse breeders are too worried about the industry’s future which had at present put in to breeding the mares and sires from best bloodlines including that of Northern Dancer’s and his progeny the famed sire Galileo.
The other day a large number of horse-owners had a lengthy meeting with the LRC chairman, Makhdum Syed Ahmad Mahmud and apprised him of the difficulties being faced by the majority owners particularly, who are not so affluent.
Senior LRC steward Mahmood Khan told Dawn that the owners requested the Makhdum to resume racing in the morning time without public and no betting as consolation for those owners and trainers who are professionally dependent on racing and have no other means or source of income. The step will help accrue some financial benefits for their survival
He said the chairman assured them that he will utilize all his resources in an endeavor to resume the sporting activity at the earliest.
Prominent among the owners were Khawaja M. Atif, Najeebullah Khan Bagri, Sheikh Omar Zaheer, Shahid Hussain Goga, Muntizar Mehdi and some others.
The owners assured that trainers, riders and they all will keep social distance and observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs). They said racing without spectators and no betting have been held recently in France, US and England. The LRC can follow the suit.
The LRC stewards, horse-owners, trainers and riders present on the occasion highly extolled the meritorious services rendered by teams of doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, social welfare organizations, the armed services, the government departments and all those voluntary organizations who put their much needed share while combating with the threat of killer virus still raging all over the world with impunity.
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020