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BHA medical chief set for government talks on resuming racing

BHA chair Phelps praises 'very welcome support' for the return of live sport

Optimism is building that racing could resume next month
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The BHA's chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill is expected to take part in a series of government meetings alongside representatives from other sports as they bid to return to action as soon as possible. 

These meetings will be designed to help sport resume within weeks and involve discussions with the team of the government's chief medical officer. Prime minister Boris Johnson has been briefed on the plan, according to a BBC report.

Health experts will examine the specifics of each sport to see what protocols would be required to get each up and running, meaning some will be able to return sooner than others. 

It has been widely reported that racing is considered to be among a handful of sports in line for an early return when government restrictions allow.

Owing largely to the release of further details this week about the resumption of British racing behind closed doors, the odds on its return next month have shortened to 2-5 with bookmakers. 

'Racing appears well set to return'

This increasing confidence was reflected on the Betfair Exchange on Saturday, when support for the resumption of racing on or before June 1 traded as low as 1.34, as short as it has been since the market began, before settling around 1-2 by 4.30pm.

"Since the middle of this week, it has all been about a restart happening as soon as next month, with the odds shortening at all rates from evens down to 2-5," said Coral's David Stevens.

"With the BHA and other sporting bodies involved in ongoing discussions with the government regarding the safe resumption of sport, and an appetite from all concerned to get going again, racing appears well set to return in some form as soon as the time is right.

"The fact racing has also been taking place around the world, in America, Australia and Hong Kong, and plans are moving ahead in France, Germany and Ireland, suggest that racing is better equipped to take place behind closed doors and under the necessary social-distancing guidelines than other major sports."

Ladbrokes' Nicola McGeady added: "Over the last few weeks the odds on [restarting in] May have shortened, but after more specific announcements from the BHA last night's move is the biggest yet. It looks like British racing could resume sooner rather than later behind closed doors."

Annamarie Phelps: "We made the best decision"

According to an article published by the Sun on Saturday, Johnson views the return of live sport such as the Premier League as a key morale boost for Britain after more than a month in lockdown. 

A link to the piece was shared on social media by BHA chair Annamarie Phelps, who praised the "very welcome support" for the resumption of sport from culture secretary Oliver Dowden and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The Times also reported on Saturday that a cross-sport group is working with government officials on resumption plans using a limited number of venues to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

The government's next review of its measures for tackling the coronavirus is due on May 7 and a return to action will still rely on these being eased, which is contingent on a number of tests being met including a sustained and consistent fall in death rates.

Sport is believed to be one of the first activities that could return after the lockdown but any return to action will be strictly controlled, with social distancing and regular tests for participants. 

There has been no racing in Britain since March 17 but this week the BHA outlined specific guidelines for the resumption of the sport. 

To allow for better social distancing, an issue raised by Dowden during a select committee session earlier in the week, field sizes will initially be restricted to a maximum of 12 runners and only senior jockeys will be allowed to participate to reduce the risk of injuries and therefore any impact on the NHS.

Racing is set to restart behind closed doors in Germany and France from early next month, with Ireland planning for a similar system when the sport restarts there. Brant Dunshea, the BHA's chief regulatory officer and chair of the resumption of racing group, is due to meet officials from those nations next week.

Read more:

Derby and Oaks to be staged on same day at Epsom as part of resumption plans

Majority of jockeys expected to be allowed to ride when British racing returns

Races to be capped at 12 runners with senior riders only under resumption plans

French racing to restart with four Group races and Monday slot for the Guineas

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Over the last few weeks the odds on May have shortened, but after more specific announcements from the BHA last night's move is the biggest yet
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