MPs call on the Government to help secure racing’s future after shutdown

Racing in Britain has been on hold since last Tuesday's meeting at Wetherby.Racing in Britain has been on hold since last Tuesday's meeting at Wetherby.
Racing in Britain has been on hold since last Tuesday's meeting at Wetherby. | JPIMedia
TWO leading MPs have appealed to the Government to stand by racing in its hour of need over the coronavirus pandemic.

Conor McGinn and Laurence Robertson have called on the Government to “recognise racing’s responsible actions” in suspending the sport last Tuesday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

And while racing continues – for now – in Ireland, the epidemic continues to have global repercussions after it was confirmed that this weekend’s Dubai World Cup meeting was being called off.

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McGinn, who represents St Helens North, and Tewkesbury MP Robertson are co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Racing and Bloodstock Industries.

Top jockey Gavin Sheehan - pictured at the yard of trainer Christian Williams at the weekend.Top jockey Gavin Sheehan - pictured at the yard of trainer Christian Williams at the weekend.
Top jockey Gavin Sheehan - pictured at the yard of trainer Christian Williams at the weekend.

They have written a letter hailing the “difficult but correct decision” to halt racing until the end of April but asking the Government to play “its role in securing the future and sustainability” of the sport.

The letter read: “These are unprecedented times that require the whole nation and government to work together to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.

“In dealing with the economic crisis that accompanies it, much has rightly been made of the urgent need for the Government to support the leisure, hospitality, entertainment and retail sectors, and protect jobs.

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“We are clear that the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the horse racing and betting industries must represent a key part of that; from racecourses such as Cheltenham and Haydock in our constituencies, to training and breeding yards and jockeys, as well as bookmakers on high streets across the country.

Jockey Tom Marquand recorded a landmark Group One victory in Australia at the weekend.Jockey Tom Marquand recorded a landmark Group One victory in Australia at the weekend.
Jockey Tom Marquand recorded a landmark Group One victory in Australia at the weekend. | PA Wire

“The financial security and jobs of the people who work in racing and all its component parts is paramount.”

They add: “As joint chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Racing and Bloodstock, we supported the difficult but correct decision to suspend racing.

“It was the only reasonable course of action to take for the public good, in the national interest and to preserve the longer-term reputation and positive image of our sport.

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“We are now calling on the Government to recognise racing’s responsible actions by playing its role in securing the future and sustainability of our great sport, which makes such a significant financial, cultural and social contribution to our country.”

Meanwhile jockeys like Danny Cook, who was due to ride Definitly Red in the Grand National, have signed an online petition asking the Government to make more support available to self-employed workers.

In the meantime Racing Welfare is planning to increase its capacity in expectation of unprecedented demand for its services as racing deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

The charity, which is established in the Middleham and Malton racing communities, offers a 24/7 support line for anyone within the sport who needs assistance.

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Chief executive Dawn Goodfellow, who is now part of the industry’s Covid-19 steering group, said: “Everyone is feeling the strain, but we really don’t want anyone to feel they can’t ask for help.”

On the track, Tom Marquand rode his first Group One winner as Addeybb lifted Saturday’s Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill in Australia.

Marquand dictated the pace aboard Addeybb, trained by Yorkshire-born William Haggas, who was last seen finishing second to Magical in the Champion Stakes last October and is a seven times winner in Britain, including at Group Two and Three level.

The six-year-old’s victory topped a fantastic start to the year for Marquand, who has ridden 20 winners in New South Wales during his Australian spells.

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He said: “A Group One is all I have dreamt of since childhood, an international Group One even more so, and an international Group One on an English horse is even better.”

Marquand and Haggas were completing a double after Young Rascal had earlier struck gold in the Group Three Iron Jack N.E. Manion Cup.