Racing NSW helping trainers amid drought crisis
RACEHORSE trainer Sally Torrens is carting in water and feed as she battles through the devastating NSW drought and, like many others, she has been stressing about how to pay for it.
Those bills were covered this week by Racing NSW, as part of a $1 million fund designed to help members of the racing industry hit by the drought. Sorting the rain will be a little trickier.
"There is not an animal on the place that is not being handfed now," Torrens said from her dust-blown 600ha property outside Gunnedah in the state's north.
She runs 800 sheep and up to a dozen racehorses, and is struggling to source feed.
"The racehorses in particular need really good feed in order to run properly," Torrens said.
"We were struggling big time and then I spoke to Racing NSW and they just paid my bills. It is an unbelievable help."
Racing NSW has already received more than 30 applications for help from trainers in dire straits and paid more than $200,000 in the week since it announced the assistance fund.
Chief executive Peter V'landys said: "It's in the Australian DNA to help someone when they're down. Accordingly we have a scheme to have money available when natural catastrophes occur. The drought is one of these events, so we will do our best to assist our participants who are most affected."
V'landys said the fund was not set up because horses were suffering but to assist trainers, who would go without themselves rather than allow their horses to suffer.
The demands are relentless. A racehorse drinks more than 20 litres of water a day and eats up to 10kg of hay.
Racehorse trainers across the state are battling the effects of the drought. In Parkes, 350km west of Sydney, trainer Sharon Jeffries said: "There is just no feed in the paddocks."
She has 18 horses in training and has seen the cost of oats skyrocket from $150 a tonne to almost $600.
"It is only going to get worse," she said.
Her daughter, jockey Tiffany Jeffries, said the drought was also affecting racecourses, with iron-hard surfaces and clouds of red dust being thrown up by the hoofs.
"I raced at Louth last week and it was very jarring for the horse," she said.
"There was a huge dust storm - and the next day my throat was still burning from swallowing so much dust."