A BUMPER 10-race card is set to launch the belated Flat racing season at Newcastle on Monday, with the sport “counting down the hours” to its long-awaited resumption.
A total of 317 horses were declared before the balloting process from an initial entry of 369 for the first meeting in Britain since March 17 when racing came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The British Horseracing Authority has been planning for a resumption on June 1 subject to Government approval – and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of further easing of restrictions on Thursday appeared to boost chances of permission being granted.
Final confirmation is expected from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this weekend as part of wider announcements on the resumption of sport.
The BHA said in a statement on Friday: “We’re counting down the hours to the return of racing and looking forward to official confirmation from the UK Government after it has published its guidelines for the resumption of sport in the next day or so. The long break is nearly over.
“This morning, we’ve been busy processing the declarations received for Newcastle’s fixture on June 1 and we are now implementing our new medical screening procedures to ensure we safeguard those who plan to be there on Monday for racing’s return.”
A maximum of 120 runners are set to line up at Newcastle, with all contests limited to 12 starters.
The initial eight races increased to 10, with both the 10-furlong Betway Maiden Stakes and the six-furlong Betway Novice Stakes divided.
Meanwhile 2018 St Leger winner Kew Gardens is on course for next month’s Ascot Gold Cup according to Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien, whose running plans could be affected by Covid-19 quanrantine restrictions on travelling staff.
“Kew Gardens is in good form and if he’s going to Ascot he’ll go there without a run. He was ready to run in Dubai and we were hoping to go to Leopardstown or Navan, but it’s all been a bit of a mess for him really,” said O’Brien.
“The plan then was to give him a little rest and come back to Ascot. We’re hoping to get him to Ascot, he’ll be there without a run and we’ll how we get on after that.”
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