British racing forced to reschedule as return delayed

The BHA had hoped to resume racing at Newcastle on Friday.
The BHA had hoped to resume racing at Newcastle on Friday.

The British Government has confirmed that no professional sport with take place in the United Kingdom until June 1 at the earliest, as measures are slowly put in place to bring the country out of lockdown. 

It was hoped that Boris Johnson's speech to the nation on Sunday evening would have opened the door to British racing returning this month, with the BHA putting plans in place to return at Newcastle on Friday. However, the Government's three-stage plan to ease lockdown measures states that all professional sports won't be able to return to action behind closed doors until the beginning of June at the earliest. 

It means that the BHA's proposed plans to stage three consecutive weekends of top-class racing action from 23-24 May - with the Guineas pencilled in for 6-7 June - will have to be put back, meaning that it now seems highly unlikely that Royal Ascot will now take place as planned in its traditional slot in the middle of June. 

The proposed date is subject to an assessment by public health officials of the risks posed by the virus at that time, and while the announcement is an obvious blow to the powers that be in racing, though the move was welcomed by the sport's executive committee - which consists of the BHA and industry leaders - who revealed they are now planning to resume at the beginning of June.  

The committee released a statement on Monday evening, which read; "Racing’s Executive Committee, which includes the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association, The Racehorse Owners’ Association and the National Trainers Federation (on behalf of licensed personnel), committed to plan for resumption on June 1st.

"They agreed that a timeline setting out what racing would need to do to meet that date will be published within the next seven days. The Resumption of Racing Group will meet later this week and ensure that race planning and the provisional fixture programme, including the scheduling of the Classics and other flagship races, meet the new government timeline.

"Racing has already drawn up plans for resumption based on minimising risk for participants through robust social distancing and strict infection control measures. Discussions with Public Health England and Chief Medical Officers from sports including horseracing will also continue.

"This has involved the development of new processes and protocols, which will require significant adjustments to ‘normal’ race-day practices. The sport will be focusing its efforts during the remainder of May on finalising and agreeing these changes across the industry and supporting everyone to understand and adopt them.

"The UK Government says it is working with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales to coordinate the easing of lockdown restrictions where possible. The BHA’s Public Affairs team continues to liaise with politicians and officials in Scotland and Wales to progress resumption at the earliest opportunity."

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