The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that it will delay the resumption of jump racing until the beginning of July. This decision was made following an initial proposal from the National Trainers Federation (NTF), with the aim being to provide clarity to the trainers and owners of jump horses and to assist them in minimising any unnecessary expenditure.
The decision has been taken in agreement with the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) and Racecourse Association (RCA).
As included in the industry plan announced on Monday, detailed proposals are being developed for a resumption of racing from 1st May, if that’s possible. When that happens, racing will begin on the flat and behind closed doors to minimise demands on emergency services.
The return to racing is also likely to be phased with a limited number of fixtures in the initial weeks. This reflects the likelihood that any easing of the Covid-19 situation, and any associated restrictions and pressures on medical services, will also happen progressively. With flat racing usually entering its core season at this time of year, the focus in the early stages of the return to racing will be on providing opportunities to the flat horse population.
A team led by the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, with representatives from across the industry met yesterday (Wednesday) to review the developing plan for resumption from 1st May.
Planning has also commenced for a return to jump racing, beginning from 1st July. It will include providing extra opportunities by programming more jump fixtures than would usually occur at this time of year, including during the originally scheduled jump breaks in August and September.
Tracks capable of holding jump racing in this period and most affected by the reduction in the number of jump fixtures earlier in the summer will be given priority when programming additional opportunities.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer of the BHA, said:
“The decision to lose jump racing until July was not one which was taken lightly and we are very conscious of the impact this will have on many across our sport.
“We are working closely with the horsemen, racecourses and Levy Board to ensure the sport is ready for a resumption of racing at the earliest possible opportunity. Our planning is progressing well, and it is important that we keep everybody informed as it develops to help them with their own decision-making.
“The plan involves a phased return of racing, as well as increasing the jump programme in late summer and early autumn. With that in mind, we wanted to ensure that those who own or train jumps horses have a clear picture of how we are planning to proceed in the coming months.
“Additionally, we were keen to minimise the risk of any unnecessary expenditure by confirming that there will be no jump racing before 1st July. This will allow horses to have breaks away from training yards if owners wish them to.”
Emma Lavelle, President of the NTF, said:
“Having canvassed the opinion of Jump trainers, we felt a break in Jump racing until 1st July would bring clarity for owners, trainers and staff, and allow the immediate focus to be on Flat Racing which is already losing a major part of its core season.
“There was a willingness to engage in constructive conversation amongst the BHA and other stake holders and flexibility to produce a programme that will give plenty of opportunities to the summer jump population later in the year”.
Charlie Parker, ROA Board member and representative on the Resumption of Racing Group, said:
“The decision to delay the resumption of Jump racing until 1st July will help bring clarity to those who were looking forward to seeing their horses run over the summer months. By taking this decision, owners and trainers can now plan with more certainty, albeit with the knowledge that it will be a phased return and therefore opportunities for horses to run will be limited initially.
“The ROA will continue to work with the Resumption of Racing Group to ensure that, when feasible, British racing is able to restart a race programme as soon as possible.”
David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the RCA, said:
“All parts of the industry are suffering right now, and racecourses are no exception, but we are fully supportive of this decision to give some certainty to horsemen and others around the timing of a resumption of jump racing.
“Equally, the commitment from the BHA that they will look to stage an enhanced programme of jump fixtures during the late summer and early Autumn is very helpful and should give some comfort to all those involved.”
Dale Gibson, Executive Director (Racing) of the PJA, said:
“The PJA, having consulted senior Jump Jockeys and our Board via conference call this morning, fully supports the plan for Jump Racing to return in July. Any changes to the summer programme present new challenges for everyone involved, especially during these incredibly difficult times. We all need to be willing to adapt and work collectively for the benefit to the sport as a whole.
“This includes having an agreed plan for the initial resumption of racing, whenever that may be, as long as we are able to do so safely from both a national perspective and from a participants’ point of view. We look forward to working closely with other stakeholders in producing a plan to get racing back up and running as soon as possible.”
The industry group coordinating work to respond to the coronavirus has today published an operational plan setting out work currently underway.
The operational plan can be viewed here.
The purpose of the plan is to protect the health of British racing’s people, horses and businesses during the pandemic and plan for the earliest possible resumption of racing and a strong recovery.
The plan provides an overview of the wide and comprehensive range of activity, led by the Industry’s COVID-19 Group, to meet the challenges to the racing industry presented by the pandemic.
It sets out objectives for five key streams of work, including finance, people, equine health and welfare, resumption and recovery.
The plan will structure and drive the work going forward and be used as a template for reporting back to senior leaders, the industry and external stakeholders where required.
It has been developed by the Industry Group (IG) and approved by the Members’ Committee of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) representing racing’s tripartite leadership of the Racecourse Association (RCA), The Horsemen’s Group (THG) and the governing body and regulator, the BHA.
The industry group includes the Chief Executives of the BHA, RCA, National Trainers Federation (NTF), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) and Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA), and has direct input from the chief executives of other industry organisations such as the Horserace Betting Levy Board, Racing Foundation and Racing Welfare.
Speaking on behalf of the group, a spokesman said:
“The Industry Group is working hard to meet the needs of the racing industry in this period of great uncertainty. There has already been a huge collaborative effort and this will continue as we move to a point at which we can resume racing.
“We are publishing the plan so that the industry’s stakeholders and participants can see the extensive programme of work that is underway. We believe this will help avoid duplication and use resources in the best possible way. We will continue to give updates at regular intervals.”
A financial submission to government, developed with input from the group, is being sent to the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS). The submission suggests a range of ways in which racing can work with government to reduce the economic impact to the industry, including further financial support.
The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed that all horseracing in Britain will be suspended with effect from tomorrow.
Last night, The Jockey Club announced that The Randox Health Grand National has been cancelled due to coronavirus.
Two race meetings are scheduled to take place behind closed doors at Wetherby and Taunton today, but race meetings will cease up to the end of April. The decision will be kept under constant review.
The formal decision was taken by Board of the British Horseracing Authority this morning based on the statements made by the government yesterday and after consultation with senior industry leaders. Medical Advisers to the RCA and the BHA, who have been advising an industry group on the response to the crisis, have also been consulted.
The BHA took the decision to protect essential emergency services and the health and welfare of staff working in the racing industry. Racecourses and racing have obligations to ensure the safety of participants and provide medical cover which clearly cannot be fulfilled in these circumstances. This follows the new advice issued by government yesterday to combat the spread of the virus.
Nick Rust, the Chief Executive of the BHA, said:
“This is a national emergency the like of which most of us have never seen before. We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.
“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.
“There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.
“We are in constant contact with government which understands the very significant consequences of this decision for jobs and businesses. We will work with them to do our best to manage the impact.
“Racing leaders will keep today’s decision under constant review and endeavour to keep all customers, participants, staff and dependent businesses informed as the situation progresses.”
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