Setback for horse racing as Government rules out any meetings until June at earliest

Hopes of a restart to racing being imminent appear to have been dealt a blow following an announcement from the Government that there will be no professional sport, even behind closed doors, in England until at least June 1.

The last race at Wetherby takes place behind closed doors as the Corona Virus continues to hit the sporting world. 17 March 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The Government’s road map for exiting the lockdown, imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, was published on Monday afternoon, setting out the conditions under which various activities can be safely carried out.

Step two of the road map, which cannot begin any earlier than June 1, includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.

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This will only be possible though if sufficient progress is made in limiting the spread of the virus between now and then, but the document entitled ‘Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy’ says that “organisations should plan accordingly”.

The sixth race at Wetherby takes place behind closed doors as the Corona Virus continues to hit the sporting world. The 16.55 Happy St Patrick's Day Novices' Handicap Hurdle, won by The Very Thing ridden by A P Crawley. 17 March 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson

It is less clear when spectators will be able to return to venues.

The document talks about venues such as cinemas and hairdressers reopening in step three - no earlier than July 4 - but states: “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.”

Racing industry leaders were already meeting to discuss the implications of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday evening.

The British Horseracing Authority tweeted on Monday morning: “Industry leaders are meeting to discuss the available information and will issue an initial response later today.

“The BHA is continuing to liaise with Government regarding yesterday’s address, and we expect further guidance this afternoon and tomorrow. In the meantime we continue to plan for the resumption of racing, alongside industry colleagues.”

Racing has not taken place in Britain since the meetings at Wetherby and Taunton on March 17, which were both held behind closed doors. Fixtures were initially suspended until the end of April, before that was extended to an unspecified date.

Under a “best-case scenario”, two high-profile weekends had been pencilled in for the end of May, with the 1000 and 2000 Guineas on the first weekend in June.

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