French racing edges closer to return as Paris police permit restart next Monday
Racing in France is on course to return behind closed doors at Longchamp next Monday, with France Galop president Edouard de Rothschild revealing Paris police have given permission for racing to resume on May 11.
The possibility of fixtures scheduled for Paris tracks being moved to other venues outside the region had been mooted by leading French stakeholders in recent weeks, with the entirety of Paris deemed a 'red zone' in terms of Covid-19 lockdown categorisation by the French government.
In a map revealed by health minister Olivier Veran, French regions have been defined as green, orange or red zones, with green locations likely to see their lockdown restrictions lifted earlier than red areas.
However, France Galop CEO Olivier Delloye insists that Paris's red zone status should not impact the return of French racing next Monday, with the backing of local police officials a significant boost for racing's return.
De Rothschild tweeted on Monday: "We obtained and received from the Prefecture of Police in Paris authorisation to resume racing on May 11. This is great news and a real victory!"
"The plan is still the same," said Delloye of the May 11 restart. "We're still aiming to resume racing on all the major racetracks – including in Paris – and we have no red light regarding racing's resumption at that stage. It's a case of so far so good."
He added: "Of course the fact an area is labelled a green zone would give you more confidence to resume racing as early as possible, but being red does not necessarily mean that racing is not possible. I think it will be a case by case scenario.
"I believe we've got a good case to really protect and defend our position to resume racing on May 11."
There have also been encouraging signs for racing's return at Chantilly, an area 50 kilometres north of Paris' city centre that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Delloye explained: "We got some very positive feedback from Chantilly because this is in an area that was badly hit by Covid-19 earlier in March. It was a question mark whether the local authorities would let racing resume as early as May 11.
"The response is pretty positive, provided that we comply with the rules that we are implementing ourselves. These have been designed with the local authorities regarding the way we operate behind closed doors."
Racing in France has been suspended since March 17 but France Galop has been preparing a bumper return card for next week's intended resumption, allocating four Group races to be held on Longchamp's opening fixture.
All Group 1 races have been rearranged, with the French 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas now set to take place on a Monday, June 1.
Similar to the restrictions previously enforced for racing behind closed doors in Ireland, only the trainer, jockey and one groom will be permitted on the racecourse for each runner, with horses and jockeys based outside of France prohibited from competing until at least the end of May.
However, confusion has reigned in the country since Saturday's two-month extension of the national state of health emergency, with conflicting reports as to whether people travelling to France will have to face a two-week quarantine upon arrival.
Delloye says he does not envisage a scenario where French racing will be without overseas runners until the emergency's end date of July 24.
"There is some contradictory news in relation to this scenario but I wouldn't think it means there will be no international involvement until then," he said.
All sport with the exception of horse racing, which is under the remit of the agricultural ministry, has been suspended until September in France and Delloye insists dialogue between France's racing authorities and government has been positive throughout.
"There has been a constant discussion with the government from day one and they have been pretty much supportive of our intention to start racing again as early as possible," he said.
"We have been trying to provide as much confidence as possible to the ministers in charge of supervising the racing industry about our ability to operate behind closed doors and eliminate as much risk as possible for the people working on site during racing."
The number of Covid-19 deaths in France rose by 135 to 24,895 on Sunday, the lowest day-on-day increase in six weeks.
Revised Group/Grade 1 French races dates
May 11 Racing restarts with Classic trials, including the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt
June 1 French 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, Longchamp
June 7 Grand Steeple Chase de Paris and Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil, Auteuil
June 13 Prix Alain du Breil and Ferdinand Dufaure, Auteuil
June 14 Prix Saint-Alary and Prix Ganay, Longchamp
June 28 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Saint-Cloud
July 5 Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane, Chantilly
July 12 Prix Jean Prat, Deauville
July 19 Prix d'Ispahan, Chantilly
August 2 Prix Rothschild, Deauville
August 9 Prix Maurice de Gheest, Deauville
August 16 Prix Jacques le Marois, Deauville
August 23 Prix Jean Romanet and Prix Morny, Deauville
September 13 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, Longchamp
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