Mark Zahra says he has never received so many congratulatory text messages as he did after receiving the news of a negative test to coronavirus.
“The phone blew up,” Zahra said.
“I’ve been inundated with text messages after winning Group One races, but I think this takes the cake.”
The jockey was alerted on Wednesday he may have been exposed to coronavirus after taking a commercial flight from Sydney to Melbourne on March 12 with a passenger on board testing positive.
Racing in Australia on Wednesday was suspended with all meetings called off on Thursday apart from Narromine in NSW.
The news from Gary Zimmerman, Racing Victoria’s doctor, arrived around 9pm on Thursday night that the test for COVID-19 was negative paving the way for racing to resume.
Zahra rode in trials at Randwick on March 12 and was booked on a 1pm flight, but after finishing ahed of schedule, he got a seat on an earlier flight.
“I had one of the emergency seats and I don’t think there was anyone next to me,” Zahra said.
“It was just wrong place, wrong time.”
A day later, the Australian government introduced strict biosecurity measures while RV took those a step further, immediately locking out crowds from race meetings.
Zahra followed those measures to the letter and is among 21 Victorian jockeys standing down from trackwork, trials and jump-outs in a bid to keep racing going.
After being alerted on Wednesday Zahra underwent a COVID-19 test, then entered isolation.
Zahra said he was relaxed on Thursday waiting for the result.
“I had to be isolated, so I didn’t do much at all and I wasn’t too nervous,” Zahra said.
“I think there were other people out there more nervous than I was waiting on the result, but there wasn’t much I could do to change it.
“I just relaxed at home, watched a bit of Netflix, set-up my X-Box and had a few glasses of wine.
“But it was a pretty big relief with what was hanging on it.”
Zahra has five rides at Bendigo on Saturday.
The jockey says the worst thing is not being able to compete in Sydney during The Championships as he has had to forfeit the rides on the Anthony Freedman-trained Group One winners Super Seth and Santa Ana Lane.
“That’s the most disappointing thing,” Zahra said.
“They’re horses that you ride regularly and their grand finals are in Sydney, but there’s more pressing matters in the world right now, so I can’t be too selfish.”