A Board meeting of HRI (Horse Racing Ireland) has decided that racing in Ireland can continue but in very strict circumstances. Racing in Britain and France has stopped until the end of March, at least, while the Aintree Grand National has been postponed.
The decision, according to the HRI, "is motivated by the need to maintain employment and incomes for people working in the industry, and on the basis of being able to achieve and maintain all HSE advice and instructions.
Since last Friday, five race meetings in Ireland have been held behind closed doors with access to the racecourse limited to a number of key personnel such as stable staff, jockeys and trainers, and strict protocols around social distancing and sanitisation.
The Board reviewed the five meetings that have taken place since Friday, and recommended some extra measures:
There will be no evening meetings and no double meetings, this will reduce the draw on medical resources, a principal concern for larger racing jurisdictions with multiple meetings every day;
A maximum of one meeting per day to reduce impact on resources;
Jockeys’ weights to increase by 2lb from Friday, on the Flat and in National Hunt - all racecourse saunas are closed;
No owners permitted to attend race meetings;
No overseas runners will be permitted for the time being in Irish races;
A maximum of 30-minute intervals between races to assist social distancing;
All previously approved protocols will continue.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland said: “This is clearly a rapidly changing situation and Horse Racing Ireland will continue to liaise with the relevant Government Departments and with our health advisers.
“The executive sub-committee of Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is meeting daily to assess the situation, and the Board of Horse Racing Ireland will continue to convene as required.
“Racecourses by their nature offer opportunities for social distancing that few other workplaces can. Nothing in Irish life is as it was a week ago, and in the same way, these are not race fixtures as we previously knew them, they are big open-air sites with very few people present and nobody on site if they are not involved: once a jockey or trainer has finished their business for the afternoon, they are required to leave. Furthermore, we have carried out risk assessments according to each individual racecourse facility, and some fixtures may be subject to greater restrictions and limitations to ensure social distancing is easily achievable and maintained.
“The Board paid tribute to the flexibility shown by stable staff, jockeys, trainers, owners and employees of the IHRB, HRI, the media and broadcasters. Strict measures were imposed on them almost immediately last Friday but their actions, care and vigilance have ensured that social distancing is being observed and racecourses continue to be a safe working environment.”