The suspension of racing in Britain, which is due to finish at the end of April, is to be extended after a decision today by the Board of the British Horseracing Authority. Racing stopped on March 18th before the government introduced the current lockdown measures to protect essential emergency services and the health and safety of the public. The government has indicated publicly that it will announce tomorrow that the lockdown restrictions will continue.
The BHA has not set a new date for ending the suspension but plans are in place so that the sport is ready to resume as soon as is possible and appropriate in consultation with government.
The BHA has been working with trainers, racecourses and other participants to develop a phased plan for resumption which will allow the sport to transition back to its normal fixture list later in the year. We remain in constant contact with government and are ready to respond quickly.
Our plans continue to allow for a resumption in May, if that is possible. We assume it would be behind closed doors only, at a point when the safety of participants can be assured and the pressure on the health service allows. Tough biosecurity measures would be in place to keep any risks to a minimum.
Because of the very strong likelihood that restrictions on mass gatherings will continue, the BHA has decided that racing with crowds will not be possible until June at the earliest. When there is greater clarity about the duration for which restrictions on crowds will apply, the BHA will communicate this to the sport, to customers and to fans.
The BHA’s Chief Executive, Nick Rust, said:
“We stopped racing in March to protect the health and safety of the public and to limit demands on the NHS. It’s right to continue this suspension until the pressure on the NHS allows for a resumption and we can assure the safety of those taking part.
“We are in touch with government as part of our development of a responsible, coordinated plan for the return of sport when it’s appropriate to do so.
“We’ll continue to develop a range of options drawing on the expertise of our participants and racecourses. But for now, we are all focused on supporting the national effort, maintaining social distancing restrictions and taking care of our people and our horses.”
For public health and safety reasons we have reached the difficult but unavoidable conclusion that Royal Ascot 2020 (16th – 20th June) will not be able to take place as an event open to the public. This will of course be a great disappointment for everyone planning to attend.
It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing. This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally. Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.
Customers who have already paid for entry and hospitality at Royal Ascot will be refunded in full in the usual way as quickly as possible and we will start the process of communicating with them, initially by email, immediately. We thank everyone in advance for their patience and understanding in completing this substantial task given the challenging practical circumstances of the current national lockdown.
The pandemic will have a significant financial impact on our business in 2020, along with so many others. Nevertheless, Ascot Racecourse will come through this crisis and we look forward to being able to welcome racegoers back when it is safe to do so.
Meanwhile, our thoughts are with all those grieving and suffering as a result of COVID-19. We offer heartfelt thanks to our wonderful NHS staff, key workers and volunteers for all their selfless dedication.
Chief Executive, Ascot Racecourse
The QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile and The Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse will not be staged 2nd/3rd May and 5th/6th June respectively, due to the ongoing public health emergency, Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) announced today.
Given the importance of the three-year-old Classic programme to the careers of that generation of horses, and the racing and bloodstock industries as a whole, JCR is now in talks with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), participants and other key stakeholders, including the Horserace Betting Levy Board and commercial partners, to reschedule the first four Classics at later dates, once racing has resumed in Britain.
JCR is looking to provide participants with the opportunity to ensure their horses are in peak condition with preparation races and adequate spacing between the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and QIPCO 1000 Guineas, run over a mile, and The Investec Derby and The Investec Oaks, run over a mile and a half.
Amy Starkey, who runs Newmarket Racecourses as East Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said:
“With less than a month until the QIPCO Guineas Festival, trainers need to know whether to step up preparations for their Guineas horses or put that on pause for a later date.
“The future is too uncertain at the moment and there is no opportunity for any preparation races before such important contests for the 2020 Classic generation.
“Therefore we feel now is the right time to take the decision to cancel the QIPCO Guineas Festival and turn our attention to determining, in conjunction with the BHA, participants and stakeholders, the earliest possible opportunity to reschedule the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.”
Phil White, who runs Epsom Downs Racecourse as London Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said:
“Following consultation with our many event stakeholders and in order to comply with current government guidance, given the unique nature of the Downs as a public space, sadly it is not practical to stage The Investec Derby Festival on 5th and 6th June.
“We are now working with the sport to explore our options to reschedule, at minimum, The Investec Derby and The Investec Oaks, as part of delivering the 2020 Classic programme for three-year-olds. We thank all involved for their pragmatism and patience as we work this through together.”
Ruth Quinn, Director of International Racing and Racing Development at the BHA, said:
“As a sport we have a responsibility to safeguard the staging of our Classics, and to position them within a sensible, balanced schedule of complementary events wherever possible. We will continue to work together to deliver the optimal outcome within these unprecedented set of circumstances.
“We are developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered in these challenging times. Naturally one of the key priorities is the staging of the generation-defining races.
“The plan will adapt depending on when racing recommences, but will aim to ensure that we provide suitable opportunities for the horses most likely to define the future of the thoroughbred breed if at all possible.”
David Redvers, QIPCO’s representative and Racing Manager to Qatar Racing, said:
“Whilst horseracing fans and professionals alike will be desperately sad to lose the QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas from their appointed dates, they can rest assured that we will be working together with the team at Newmarket Racecourses and The Jockey Club to ensure this is only a temporary measure.
“The Classics and the Pattern define horseracing and QIPCO is committed to ensuring that the running the first of this year’s Classics takes place at the earliest opportunity, to help to safeguard the health and prosperity of the horseracing industry.”
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