Racing chief hopes that sport's return will 'lift the nation's spirits'

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust hopes the return of racing on Monday will "lift the nation's spirits in difficult times".

Action from York Racecourse last summer. Picture: Getty Images

Racing was given Government clearance to resume on Saturday, with Newcastle's 10-race card representing the first meeting in Britain since Wetherby and Taunton raced behind closed doors on March 17.

That no-spectators policy will be in place for the foreseeable future, along with a raft of stringent hygiene and social-distancing measures that are pivotal to the Government go-ahead for elite sport following the coronavirus shutdown.

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With Newmarket set to stage the high-profile Qipco Guineas Festival next weekend, Rust believes the timing of the resumption is key to helping protect jobs within racing.

He said: "This is an important stage towards a complete return for our industry and will help protect livelihoods and businesses.

"The timing is crucial for the breeding sector and we thank the government and officials at DCMS and Public Health England for their assistance in planning a safe return to racing.

"There is still a tough battle ahead before we can get fully back in business, but this is a resilient and world-leading industry and we are ready for the task."

The 'stage three' guidance for elite and professional sport, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, outlines the facilities and processes that will need to be in place for sport to be safely staged following the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance has been developed in close consultation with the Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Public Health England and medical representatives across sport, including the BHA.

Racing's rulers have been working towards June 1 as a start date for some time and published a 33-page protocol document last weekend

Rust added: "Our plans for returning safely have been developed with the assistance of all the representative bodies in our sport and I believe the public can be reassured by the measures we will have in place.

"People understand how important it is for industries like ours to get back to work. Our participants know what will be asked of them when they attend a raceday.

"Together, we'll stick to social-distancing rules and prevent the virus spreading.

"I'm sure the return of racing will be welcomed by all those who've missed the excitement of live sport and the majestic sight of racehorses running at full gallop.

"We hope it will lift the nation's spirits in difficult times and look forward to seeing our owners and racing fans back at racecourses as soon as that's possible."

Only limited personnel will be allowed on course under the new rules, with a three-stage screening process, including medical checks before departure and on arrival, applying to all attendees and social-distancing officials in place to ensure that the new procedures are strictly adhered to.

The BHA says it has taken "a tailored approach to managing risks as an outdoor, non-contact sport where most participants live in rural areas with low rates of Covid-19".

Tests will be required for those with symptoms, who will not be allowed to attend meetings until they test negative, while tests will also be conducted as part of a surveillance programme monitoring the impact of the virus on the racing community.

The BHA's chief medical adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, said: "Our approach to screening and surveillance has been developed following discussions with Public Health England as part of the Chief Medical Officers in Sport Group.

"It is based on the low level of background risks at an outdoor event in a non-contact sport with attendees from mainly rural areas.

"It is responsible, makes sensible use of medical resources but is flexible so we can adapt in accordance with changing government policy and as our knowledge of Covid-19 increases over time."

Newcastle's opening meeting will be a 10-race card, beginning at 1.00pm, with the last event at 6.15pm. All races will be restricted to 12 runners.

Both Newcastle and Kempton will race on June 2, followed by Kempton and Yarmouth on June 3 and Newcastle and Newmarket on June 4.

Lingfield and Newmarket feature on June 5, with those tracks also in action on June 6 together with Newcastle. Haydock and Lingfield join Newmarket on June 7, while Chelmsford, Haydock and Lingfield take centre stage on June 8.

Newmarket's Friday card will be headlined by the Coronation Cup, which has been moved from Epsom, plus the Paradise Stakes and Abernant Stakes. Lingfield hosts its Derby and Oaks trials that day.

Royal Ascot remains in its traditional spot in the calendar this year, beginning on June 16. The Derby and Oaks have been pencilled in for July 4.

Report by PA.

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