Irish racing is scheduled to return on June 29 but the prospect of an earlier restart was given a boost on Monday after Horse Sport Ireland announced that other equestrian activity could resume next Monday.
Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon argued that a precedent for racing to return in a powerful address at the Dail on Wednesday. There is cautious optimism that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) could approve an earlier resumption of racing from June 8.
There has been no racing in Ireland since March 24 although meetings had been taking place behind closed doors. One of the key fixtures to be lost was the Irish Grand National meeting between April 11-13.
Heydon said: “The racing industry is that. It’s an industry and not just a sport. It employs 30,000 people between the racing and breeding sector and the present restrictions on racing have significant knock-on implications for the breeze-up sales and the sales in general and the breeding sector more broadly, as well as very significant impacts on trainers and jockeys and racecourse and their future viability.”
‘I believe racing can return in a safe manner’
He also highlighted the effective return of behind-closed-doors racing in France on Monday and suggested the return of the sport in Ireland would be a much-needed boost for people stuck at home.
He added: “I believe racing can return in a safe manner, which is crucial when racing is resumed in other jurisdictions already like France this week. It’s crucial that we in Ireland aren’t left behind and I believe that it can be done in a safe way.”
“It’s also a source of much-needed enjoyment for the people at home, many of whom are cocooning. I know in Kildare, when you go knocking on doors, plenty of people of that age bracket would have the racing paper on their lap and would be following races very keenly throughout the day. We have many racing supporters at home who would love to have Irish racing back on their TV sets as well.”