Irish Racing to continue behind closed doors

Irish Racing has been given the green light to continue behind closed doors.
Irish Racing has been given the green light to continue behind closed doors.

Horse Racing Ireland has announced that Irish racing will continue under strict protocols behind closed doors, bringing some much-needed relief to the industry.

The sport has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic this week, with Aintree’s Grand National Festival being cancelled on Monday evening, before the whole of British Racing was scrapped until the end of April a day later.

However Irish racing, which has been held behind closed doors since Friday, will continue to do so under a fresh list of strict protocols - which will provide a much-needed boost to the sport. Five meetings have so far taken place without a crowd in Ireland, and upon a review of those fixtures, Horse Racing Ireland has added several extra measures in order for meetings to continue, which read;

  • There will be no evening meetings and no double meetings - this will reduce  the draw on medical resources, a principal concern for larger racing jurisdictions with multiple meetings every day
  • A maximum of one meeting per day to reduce impact on resources
  • Jockeys’ weights to increase by 2lb from Friday, on the Flat and in National Hunt - all racecourse saunas are closed
  • No owners permitted to attend racemeetings
  • No overseas runners will be permitted for the time being in Irish races
  • A maximum of 30-minute intervals between races to assist social distancing
  • The previously approved protocols will continue and are set out in the attached Appendix

Nicky Hartery, Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, explained that the decision was a necessary one to support the industry. He said: “These are unprecedented and sombre times and we are seeking the best ways to support the racing community and industry throughout what lies ahead.  

“Health and welfare of employees and industry participants is the prime consideration and within that context, we have introduced protocols which can allow racing to continue and thousands of families who rely on the sector to maintain a livelihood. This will be kept under review on a daily basis and we are also planning measures for reprogramming fixtures  as it becomes required. Changes to the programme will be separately announced.

“We have consulted with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine throughout this process and we will continue to strictly adhere to the Government and HSE advice.  We have made it clear at all times that our medical facilities and personnel will be available for the Government to use if necessary – that will take precedence above any other consideration.”

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Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland added:

“This is clearly a rapidly changing situation and Horse Racing Ireland will continue to liaise with the relevant Government Departments and with our health advisors.

“The executive sub-committee of Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is meeting daily to assess the situation, and the Board of Horse Racing Ireland will continue to convene as required.

“Racecourses by their nature offer opportunities for social distancing that few other workplaces can. Nothing in Irish life is as it was a week ago, and in the same way, these are not race fixtures as we previously knew them, they are big open-air sites with very few people present and nobody on site if they are not involved: once a jockey or trainer has finished their business for the afternoon, they are required to leave.  Furthermore, we have carried out risk assessments according to each individual racecourse facility, and some fixtures may be subject to greater restrictions and limitations to ensure social distancing is easily achievable and maintained.

“The Board paid tribute to the flexibility shown by stable staff, jockeys, trainers, owners and employees of the IHRB, HRI, the media and broadcasters. Strict measures were imposed on them almost immediately last Friday but their actions, care and vigilance have ensured that social distancing is being observed and racecourses continue to be a safe working environment.”

Meanwhile, British racing remains in lockdown, though the BHA have insisted that they will continue to monitor the situation - giving hope that a similar policy could be developed here if Ireland's policy proves to be a success.

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