Derby and Oaks to be staged on same day at Epsom as part of resumption plans
The Investec Derby and Oaks would be run on the same day in early July as part of plans being drawn up for racing’s return, with Epsom retaining its place as the home of the two major Classics.
Both races have been postponed by the Jockey Club, along with the Qipco 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, as racing adjusts to the shutdown of the sport since March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Oaks and Derby traditionally take place on the first Friday and Saturday in June respectively, but combining the two as part of a bumper behind-closed-doors offering on a single day in July is understood to be preferred, with people travelling to and from the course reduced as a consequence.
Those involved in talks around planning for the resumption of racing want to keep the races at Epsom if possible, rather than moving them to an alternative location such as Newmarket where wartime substitutes for the Classics took place, although challenges such as the public having access to the heath at the centre of the course, potentially impacting on social distancing measures, are still being looked into.
Epsom would have staged its first fixture of the year on Wednesday and clerk of the course Andrew Cooper wrote on Twitter: “Today should have been the Investec Spring Meeting f at Epsom. The course is in good shape and will be ready to go when required. Stay safe until then."
The prospect of the Derby and Oaks remaining at Epsom was greeted with enthusiasm by Andrew Balding, who saddled Casual Look to victory in the 2003 Oaks and is preparing last year’s Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Kameko for a possible tilt at this year’s Derby.
He said: “If it’s at all possible to run the Derby at Epsom then that’s got to be where the race is run, although as I’ve said before the priority ultimately is to make sure the race is run wherever it is.
“It’s tremendous if that is the aim to have the races take place there and I think racing is making good moves for returning when it is able to do so. From what I’ve read, seen and heard the plans seem very well thought out and racing should be in a good position when government gives approval for it to go ahead.”
No set date has been given for the return of any of the first four Classics, although on Friday the BHA confirmed all races had been cancelled up to May 7 when "an update is expected from government which should provide greater clarity as to resumption timings".
The statement added: "Work is ongoing to agree an amended fixture list and race programme beyond this point and further details will be communicated within the next fortnight to assist with planning. The amended programme will be based on the original one as far as is possible."
A further 684 coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals were reported on Friday by the Department of Health. That took the total number of Covid-19 patients to have died in UK hospitals to 19,506.
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