Racing working towards Friday week resumption following positive meetings
Racing in Britain is working towards a resumption on May 15 following positive meetings with government officials over the last seven days.
The BHA and other key racing organisations have been eager not to pre-empt any announcement from government by setting a public target for the sport’s return, and plans remain fluid as to when and how to kickstart the industry depending on what is laid out by ministers on Thursday when lockdown measures are reviewed.
Those planning for the resumption of the sport are confident that action can take place within a week of any clearance being given, with May 15 emerging as a likely starting point if this week’s government update provides the go-ahead for a behind-closed-doors return to action.
Stakeholders have been encouraged by the positive response from government during meetings last week and are preparing to draw up a programme for racing’s return over the next few days, with all-weather venues Lingfield and Newcastle understood to be the frontrunners for hosting the first fixtures in Britain since March 17.
The BHA last week published a “best-case scenario” outline for major races, such as the Craven, Sagaro, Lockinge and Dante Stakes, taking place this month with the first of those meetings on May 23, which includes the Craven and Nell Gwyn Stakes, understood to be scheduled for Newmarket, where the Qipco 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas will be run on the first weekend in June.
Racecourses had until 5pm last Friday to express an interest to the BHA to host fixtures for the revised 2020 racing programme, with Beverley among a host of courses to put their names forward for consideration.
Sally Iggulden, Beverley's chief executive, said on Sunday: “Basically we’re in a similar position to everyone else. We’ve put an operational plan together for racing behind closed doors, but we’re still awaiting some clarification for requirements around it in particular with testing and social distancing, then they can form part of our final plan.
“Once you get everyone in it’s pretty easy to run a behind-closed-doors event, but you need to make sure the right people are in, the right testing has been done and make sure you have the right [personal protective] equipment.”
Racecourses were able to put themselves forward for various phases of the sport’s return, with those able to quarantine the people needed for racing to go ahead going into the pool for phase one, if it is required, and others into other pots for action behind closed doors.
Iggulden said: “When we were asked if we wanted to race you were asked to submit for different phases of racing. Phase one is the onsite quarantine option with hotels, which we weren’t qualified for, while phase two is behind closed doors racing.
“That is the phase we entered for and is likely to be the position other courses have gone in at as well as most you would think are able to do that. It was made clear to us that the phase one plan might not necessarily happen but they wanted it all in place in case that is the way they had to go. If it wasn’t necessary, everything would move up and the phase we have put in for would become phase one.”
On Saturday, Beverley announced that its fixtures on June 16 and 23 had been cancelled as part of the process of restructuring British racing, but Iggulden is feeling more optimistic about the course being able to host fixtures this summer.
She said: “There are still a lot of questions to be answered around things such as funding and it’s a work in progress at the moment.
“Once we know the full requirements we will be in a better place as it’s quite hard to price up a behind closed doors meeting until we know everything but it’s definitely allowed us to start planning thoroughly and given us all a bit of hope as well.”
Racing is 5-8 to return before June 1 on Betfair's 'when will UK racing resume' market having drifted to as big as evens last week.
Spokesman Barry Orr said: “It’s positive to see that there has been more support for racing to be on before June 1 while Royal Ascot to go ahead on June 16 has come into 5-4 from 2-1, which is also the right direction even if it’s still less favoured than it is to not go ahead.
"Similar markets for the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National were pretty accurate and there is a high level of liquidity in them, which means there are plenty of people getting involved and a lot of opinions flying around.”
May 15 is set to be a key date in America too with Santa Anita planning for a resumption then having been closed since March 22.
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