Racing in Britain and Ireland – when will we get back behind closed doors?

Maksab winning at Lingfield 22/2/19

It is becoming increasingly likely that racing will not return in Britain or Ireland until the middle of May at the earliest.

The lockdown in Ireland was extended until May 5, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed last Friday, meaning the opening Classic of the Irish season, the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas scheduled for May 23, hangs in the balance and may yet be postponed.

Ireland have already lost the Punchestown festival, originally scheduled to take place from April 28 to May 2, and the Boylesports Irish Grand National fixture which was due to take place at Fairyhouse over the Easter period but may yet be rearranged in the autumn.

Horse Racing Ireland are due to hold a board meeting on Friday, where they are expected to take stock of the current situation and provide instructions to key industry stakeholders about a possible return date.

Lockdown measures in Britain are similar to Ireland and any talk of a return date seems premature and a bit guessy.

The British Horseracing Authority on Monday revealed that if the shutdown of the sport lasts until July, it will cost the industry an estimated £193m in revenue for participants.

The forecast loss for racecourses, trainers, breeders and jockeys accounts for 13 per cent of racing’s annual revenue, with the BHA believing it could result in a £55.25m net cash impact and cause “significant economic and social hardship” as well as having the potential to “threaten British racing’s pre-eminent position” in the sport internationally.

Work continues to go on behind the scenes at the BHA to prepare racing to return with government backing at the earliest possible moment, including the potential use of behind-closed-doors ‘hub’ racecourses such as Newmarket, Newcastle and Lingfield for extended periods.

For now, the date for racing’s return remains May 1, according to the group tasked with readying the sport, although the BHA’s forecasts and requests for help extend beyond that and into the summer, in line with schemes announced by government such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which initially run until June.

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