Owners back on course for Derby day with test fixtures set for Wednesday
Owners will be back on the racecourse in time for Derby day on Saturday, with the first of two test events scheduled for Wednesday before a phased return.
Under plans agreed by the Racecourse Association, Racehorse Owners Association and BHA, owners will be able to start attending meetings behind closed doors from Saturday, with safety and infection control measures in place in alignment with government guidance.
Two test fixtures will be held on Wednesday at Kempton and Southwell, with the last-named meeting marking the return of jump racing in Britain, to pilot the protocols and allow for a thorough review of the processes in place to facilitate a smooth implementation.
Owners will be able to experience racing behind closed doors and provide useful feedback before the wider planned rollout on Saturday, when Epsom hosts the Investec Derby and Oaks.
Owners wishing to register for the test events will be notified directly via email once their horse is declared to run.
The protocols apply only to racecourses in England at this stage, although British racing continues to engage with the Scottish and Welsh governments on the return of owners to the racecourse.
Not all racecourses will be able to accommodate owners immediately as they remain subject to local authority clearance and operational restrictions. The RCA is working directly with racecourses to help them welcome owners back at the earliest opportunity.
ROA chief executive Charlie Liverton said: "It’s great to have owners back on the course and I’d like to thank the BHA, racecourses and the team at the ROA for their hard work since the resumption of racing to put in place protocols for owners to attend.
“Owners contribute so much to this sport and it has been frustrating not to be on the track to see their horses run. Their patience and loyalty has been very much appreciated during this challenging period.
"There's still more work to do and we'll continue to work with owners and racing’s stakeholders to get our sport back up and running in full with people across the UK able to enjoy a day’s racing on course when it's safe and appropriate to do so.”
Owners will still face limitations, with a maximum of two owners or representatives per horse able to attend. The experience for owners will be very different to usual and they will face restrictions on their movements.
Since racing resumed on June 1 following the Covid-19 shutdown, strict measures were put on those able to attend and it will be the same for owners, with a health screening process, which includes the BHA's Covid-19 online learning module, a health assessment in advance of raceday and further questions and a temperature check on arrival.
Owners will need to be pre-registered before all race meetings using the RCA's Pass system, with only confirmed attendees granted access, while they must arrive no earlier than 45 minutes before their first horse is due to run and leave the racecourse within one hour of the final race in which they have a runner.
There will be dedicated owner zones, which will separate owners from raceday workers, including trainers and jockeys, for infection control purposes, with no movement permitted between the two areas.
RCA chief executive David Armstrong said: "We're delighted to be able to welcome back owners to the racecourse, albeit in limited numbers for now.
"Owners are critical to our sport and their patience and support during lockdown has been vital. The special measures set out in the new protocols should enable owners to enjoy the racing experience again but to do so in a safe and responsible fashion."
All fixtures this weekend are expected to allow owners to attend, with more information on meetings being held from July 6 expected later this week.
These temporary measures will be eased gradually, subject to government guidance, and a more integrated raceday experience will be re-introduced at the earliest opportunity.
The BHA's chief medical adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, said: "As with our wider approach to resumption, the return of owners is predicated on a phased, risk-managed plan, which establishes infection control protocols that are essential for the safe continuation of racing during the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
“These include pre-entry screening for owners and segregated areas to facilitate social distancing at no closer than two metres – measures that prioritise the safety of our attendees, are consistent with government guidance for elite sports fixtures behind closed doors, and are supported by the UK government.”
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