By Denis J. Croke
AFTER a hiatus of 11 weeks the government has confirmed that they have brought forward the initial date of 29 June for horse racing’s return. After ten meetings had been held behind close doors the last racing in Ireland took place on 24 March in Clonmel.
Horse Racing Ireland welcomed the news saying: “We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way.”
Only key personnel necessary to run the fixture will be permitted on site where they will be subject to Covid-19 protocols. All those in attendance will be subject to health surveying in advance and thermal temperature screening on entry.
“We know from our own experience in March when we safely ran 10 meetings behind closed doors – and from what is happening in other countries like France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and America – that racing can be staged safely within the requirements of social distancing,” said Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh.
Among the new protocols in place will be mandatory wearing of face coverings for many attendees including jockeys, stalls handlers, medical professionals and security staff.
On Sunday, a revised fixture list up to the end of June will be released, including confirmation on when the Classics, traditionally scheduled for this time of year, will be run.
Racing restarted behind closed doors in Germany on 7 May and in France on 11 May, while in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong the industry continued operating behind closed doors. In Britain, the British Horseracing Authority plans to resume racing on 1 June.
“These will not be race meetings as you might traditionally imagine them, rather stripped back events which will determine the best horses in various categories, a vital factor for the breeding industry,” Kavanagh said. “Attendance will be kept to an absolute minimum and Covid-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.”