Travel ban leaves Irish runners at Kempton in doubt
The participation of Irish runners at Kempton in the days after Christmas was thrown into doubt on Sunday evening after the government in Dublin moved to suspend non-essential travel from Britain due to fears over the new strain of Covid-19.
Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee is a leading contender at around 8-1 for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on December 26, while the Waterford trainer also has Arkle Chase heroine Put The Kettle On engaged in the Desert Orchid Chase 24 hours later.
Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott also have Kempton entries, but whether the travel ban will still be in force then is unclear. It has initially been imposed for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday and it has been reported that flights will be suspended and ferries will be limited to freight travel.
It could also impact British runners at Leopardstown, with Ollie Murphy’s 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Thomas Darby due to contest the three-mile Grade 1 hurdle at the Dublin track on December 28.
Other European countries have begun to close their doors to travel from the UK, with France saying it was suspending passenger and human-handled freight transport for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday.
International horse travel has continued during recent lockdowns, while jockeys, who initially were unable to move between countries, progressed from being able to travel only for Group or Grade 1s after HRI recently granted them the freedom to travel abroad if they are riding in any Graded race.
However, concerns over the new strain of the virus have cast fresh uncertainty on the matter. Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, was among those unsure of the landscape on Sunday evening.
“I don’t know yet,” Kavanagh said when asked if the elite sport exemptions would still apply.
“We will try to find out as quickly as possible. Early indications were that racing wouldn’t be impacted, but that’s nothing official. Horses were able to travel over and back during the highest level of lockdowns previously, but we will try to find out the detail on Monday.”
Kavanagh indicated HRI would seek clarity from the department of agriculture, and he accepted the move by the Irish government to suspend travel from Britain reflected a dramatic escalation.
“Things have escalated, both in the UK and here,” he said.
“Obviously, anything we do, we do it on the basis of government advice, and on the basis of risk assessment. That’s why it’s not something just to take a snap reaction to. Let’s find out the facts and see what the situation is then. We’ve had Irish rugby teams playing in the UK and France over the weekend, so it’s not just racing that would be impacted by this.”
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