Coronavirus & Horse Racing: The Current State of Play

Coronavirus & Horse Racing: The Current State of Play
© Racing Post / Patrick McCann
Charlie Scutts
Charlie Scutts
Wednesday 18th March 2020

Charlie's interest in racing first started when he got a job working at a high-street bookmakers in the year before he went to university. Four years later, having finished his degree in History, a career in horse-racing journalism provided the perfect blend for his interests in both writing and sport.

Fortunately Cheltenham Festival passed without any major disruption due to the Coronavirus pandemic. British Horse Racing had put up a stirring defence against the ever-widening problem where fellow sports such as football, cricket and golf have fallen by the wayside.

Nevertheless, the inevitable has happened today. Racing has been cancelled until the end of April after the government’s increased measures designed to halt the spread of the virus on Monday. Where we will end up is unknown, but here’s the lowdown on the current state of play and how it affects the horse racing schedule as well as you, the punter.

What’s On this Week

  • The UK – Racing will take place on Tuesday for the last time until the end of April.
  • Ireland – Racing is still going ahead at the current moment in time. No spectators have been admitted since Friday and this Wednesday the HRI announced changes to the racing schedule.
  • Europe – The French authorities cancelled all racing until the 15th April this Monday. They follow on from bans in place on German, Italian and Spanish racing.
  • Rest of the World – Indian racing is no longer taking place. Crowd controls are in place in the US, Australia, South Africa as well as Dubai. The Kentucky Derby will not take place until September.

Domestic Action

Current State of Play

The 2020 Cheltenham Festival provided a timely uplifting of public spirits in a rather disheartening situation. The fact that all four days went ahead without restrictions is something for which we, racing fans, should be truly thankful.

Just four days after the end of the festivities, racing announced that it was no longer taking spectators. The BHA announced that from Tuesday, racing will go ahead behind closed doors with the first meetings affected being Taunton and Wetherby.

However, this measure remained in place for just one day, with the BHA announcing on Tuesday that from Wednesday, all racing will be off until the end of April. That affects the following prestigious meetings:

  • March 28 – Doncaster Lincoln meeting
  • April 2-4 – Aintree Grand National meeting
  • April 10 – Lingfield All-Weather Championships Final Day
  • April 14-16 – Newmarket Craven meeting
  • April 17-18 – Newbury Greenham meeting
  • April 18 – Ayr Scottish Grand National
  • April 25 – Sandown Jump season finale

Ireland have come to our rescue in this dire time though. The HRI revealed on Wednesday that racing would continue, albeit with modifications. Spectators will be unable to attend and there will be just one meeting a day. Nevertheless, the fact that racing continues is fantastic news for the sport as well as the punters. A full breakdown of the schedule is available here.

The Future

Whether the ban will continue past the end of April is up for debate. The crisis could improve and life could return to normal. What appears more likely at the current moment is that the problems will worsen.

Aintree’s Grand National will not take place until next year. Lingfield as well as Newmarket host important meetings in April – All-Weather Championship Finals Day and the Craven meeting respectively. These have also been lost, as well as the start of the flat season proper at Doncaster next weekend.

Newmarket’s Guineas, Epsom’s Derby meeting as well as Royal Ascot all follow quickly. They are under threat, as well as other prestigious summer meetings at Sandown, Goodwood and Newbury.

International Action

Unlike with last year’s equine flu crisis, this is not just an issue affecting domestic action. In fact, overseas racing has been more affected than the UK racing.

Racing in Germany, India, Italy and Spain has already been abandoned and racing will not take place in France until the 15th of April. Restrictions on crowds in Australia, France and the United States are also in place, as well as in the UAE where Meydan’s Super Saturday didn’t take spectators back on the 7th March.

The Dubai World Cup night will also take place without spectators. The crown in the jewel of Middle East racing, organisers and fans alike will be eager for it to take place.

Fortunately, myracing’s tips from America, Australia and South Africa will continue to go ahead until further notice. Dubai World Cup night will provide welcome relief to those craving quality horse racing and racing continues from Hong Kong and Happy Valley for the time being.

We will aim to provide coverage of racing as frequently as we are able. The banning of horse racing would be bad enough if our normal lives were allowed to continue unfettered. Given the current rules in place though, we require the joy and happiness that sport brings more than ever.

Further updates will follow

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