Fervent spectators are gone but daily life in Turkey’s horse racetracks has not changed much due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Stable hands and veterinarians, jockeys and other staff are the only people that remain in the country's nine horse racing circuits. The country halted all horse races last Friday, one day after all football, basketball, handball and volleyball competitions were suspended.
Horse racing is a popular sport in the country, mostly for those betting on them. Authorities had initially ordered the races to take place without spectators, but as the number of cases increased, they decided to suspend them, ending the most important part of the weekly routine of expensive horses and their jockeys. Still, horses, like athletes in other sports, as well as their jockeys, need to maintain their training regimen.
Horse racetracks are almost in quarantine as no one except the staff are allowed in while everyone working inside have to undergo routine tests for body temperatures as a measure.
Ayşe Yetiş, a veterinarian working at Veliefendi racetrack in Istanbul, says horses are being cared for and train “like they still race.” She says little changed in the lives of horses as Turkey stepped up measures against the coronavirus outbreak. “Unlike the racehorses in some countries, racehorses in Turkey live inside (horse racing facilities). So, minus the races, there is nothing different for them now.”
Yetiş says a tough process began for those working at the horse racetracks and the suppliers, from food and medicine producers to horse owners. Volkan Yozgatlı, a horse breeder and owner, says thousands of people work in hippodromes and as suppliers. Oğuz Yalçın, another breeder, says the suspension ended all revenues for the sports, but expenditures remain in place. “You cannot abandon horses; you have to care for them,” he says. “You cannot shut down horse racetracks. It is a way of living for many, just like a factory. There should be a solution. Races can resume without spectators, and there can be stricter measures for the staff here.”
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