Business as usual for racing until advised otherwise, says BHA
Confirmation came via a British Horseracing Authority statement issued shortly before the feature Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup on the concluding day of the National Hunt Festival that still attracted over 200,000 spectators this week despite public health fears.
However, Monday’s meeting at Kelso will take place behind closed doors following the Scottish Government advice to delay the spread of coronavirus by cancelling mass gatherings.
“British racing continues to be in close contact with the UK Government and has been following their advice to continue with business as usual, subject to public health guidance,” said a BHA statement.
“We are aware of the decisions taken by a number of sports today to suspend fixtures in advance of any Government decision coming into effect. Racing’s leaders are monitoring the situation daily and are currently considering a range of options in this rapidly developing situation. Contingency plans are ready as required.
“We are seeking further guidance from the Scottish Government after their decision to ban outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people to protect the resilience of critical emergency services.
“Prior to receiving detailed advice from Scottish Government, racing at Kelso on Monday will be behind closed doors. The number of staff and participants will be below the Scottish Government’s figure of 500 for outdoor gatherings.”
The move comes after Horse Racing Ireland took the decision on Thursday to ban spectators from meetings – and limit the number of officials and connections permitted on courses.
No decision has been made about next month’s Grand National – officials say they’re planning for the big race as normal but it is understood they are looking at contingency plans.
Meanwhile Wetherby chief executive Jonjo Sanderson expects racing to go ahead at the West Yorkshire track on Tuesday, provided there’s no heavy rain over the coming days.
He said the course always prided itself on cleanliness, but that race-goers need also to take personal responsibility. “People do need to be responsible for their own safety but we will endeavour to make sure everything is what it should be,” he said.
Emma Lavelle hopes De Rasher Counter can make light of top-weight in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter. The eight-year-old already has one major prize in the bag this season, having won the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in late November under conditional jockey Ben Jones.
Lavelle admits to having reservations about running her charge under a welter burden in testing conditions, but ultimately decided to give the green light.
“There are so many questions going forward with the coronavirus, who knows what will happen with racing?” she said.