Ireland, which had looked like being the odd man out of Europe’s major racing nations if it could not return until the end of June, has given the go-ahead for the sport to start there on June 8, a week after England following the success of Horse Racing Ireland’s proposal.
The news was tweeted direct from a cabinet meeting by Fine Gael TD Peter Burke. He said: “Horse Racing to return behind closed doors with strict protocols from June 8. Much needed certainty for the sector.”
It was later confirmed by Horse Racing Ireland that racing had been promoted from phase three to phase two.
“We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way,” said Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI.
“We know from running 10 meetings behind closed doors and from what is happening in France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and America – that racing can be staged safely within the requirements of social distancing.”
Among HRI’s new protocols will be advance health screening of all attendees and temperature checks on arrival. Everyone will be required to wear mandatory face masks and a Covid-19 protocol officer will be on duty at each fixture. A revised fixture list for June will be published on Sunday.
Derby winning trainer John Oxx said: “It’s a relief all right. A lot of people weren’t happy about June 29. We had originally hoped for late May but early June is a big improvement on the end of June. We can live with that and hopefully salvage the season.
“The vibes were always quite good for an earlier return and we were hoping this would be the outcome. Our people (HRI) haven’t published a provisional programme yet for the Classics, the trials and Group races so we will wait and see and hopefully we will be able to get a wide variety of horses out quickly.
“Many people were resigned to June 29 so they will be very happy. We’re lucky, we’ve a business which can be carried out safely but a lot of businesses are in a very complex situation.”
Meanwhile the British Horseracing Authority clarified that in order to ensure a smooth resumption international runners from France and Ireland will only be allowed to run in Group Ones in the first fortnight, in other words the Qipco 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas and Coronation Cup.
After June 15 this will extend down the Pattern to Group two, three and Listed races. It said the step had been taken to address concerns that with a reduced fixture list the number of eliminations from races is likely to be a significant issue. It nevertheless means Aidan O'Brien's first runners of the season are likely to be England rather than Ireland.