Return to British racing to remain on hold

cheltenham
Racing in Britain remains closed with the Cheltenham Festival the last major event held.

Racing will remain on hold beyond the end of April after the British Horseracing Authority extended its suspension on meetings in Britain.

Action ceased on March 18 because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the BHA announcing a halt to all fixtures until at least May 1.

The government subsequently introduced the current lockdown measures across the country and with those restrictions expected to be extended, the BHA has announced the hold will remain in place until an as yet unspecified date.

While a new date has not been set for ending the suspension, the BHA says plans are in place so racing is ready to resume as soon as permitted.

“The BHA has been working with trainers, racecourses and other participants to develop a phased plan for resumption which will allow the sport to transition back to its normal fixture list later in the year,” a BHA statement said

“We remain in constant contact with government and are ready to respond quickly.

“Our plans continue to allow for a resumption in May, if that is possible. We assume it would be behind closed doors only, at a point when the safety of participants can be assured and the pressure on the health service allows.

“Tough biosecurity measures would be in place to keep any risks to a minimum.”

The BHA is also anticipating restrictions on mass gatherings to continue and said it has decided that racing with crowds will not be possible until June at the earliest.

The last major fixture was last month’s four-day Cheltenham Festival attended by 250,000 people.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust believes the correct course of action is to prolong the suspension until the safety of participants is assured.

“We stopped racing in March to protect the health and safety of the public and to limit demands on the NHS,” he said.

“It’s right to continue this suspension until the pressure on the NHS allows for a resumption and we can assure the safety of those taking part.

“We are in touch with government as part of our development of a responsible, coordinated plan for the return of sport when it’s appropriate to do so.

“We’ll continue to develop a range of options drawing on the expertise of our participants and racecourses.”