British Horseracing Authority Ready to Restart Racing

Last updated: May 7, 2020 by Leon Marshal

The chief of the British Horseracing Authority has stated that the industry is ready to restart racing. Pending government permission, Nick Rust said race meetings could resume within a week. Racing has been suspended since the 17th of March in Britain because of the coronavirus crisis.

Racing in the UK could return with less than a weeks’ notice according to the head of the British Horseracing Authority. Nick Rust confirmed the sport’s readiness to return once given the go-ahead by the government stating “we can be the first to go”.

Rust, who has been in his role at the BHA for six years, said his announcement wasn’t intended to court public opinion, adding “we’re saying we’re ready when you’re ready when the public health advice is ready.”

As racing has continued in Australia, America and Hong Kong, pressure has been applied by British racing stakeholders on the BHA to lobby government to allow racing to restart, albeit without spectators. In America, viewing of horse racing has tripled over the last year creating an unexpected boom for a sport that in regular times fails to compete with mainstream sports such as NFL, NBA and NHL. A point made by Fox Sports executive vice president Mike Mulvihill who said, “For a sport that usually only garners national attention from the Kentucky Derby through Triple Crown season, horse racing is benefiting from being the only game in town.”

BHA’s Rust explained that the countries that had been able to resume racing had different conditions, both practically and financially. He added;

The conditions are different in different places. People cite Hong Kong, that’s government-owned, and all the horses are stabled right next to the racecourses, they’re able to make the case of continuing the economic activity. We have to try harder to make the case. Nick Rust, BHA CEO

Rust added that one advantage horse racing had over other sporting events was that the horses had been in exercise throughout the lockdown period. The 12,000 horses could be readied within a matter of delays, compared to the estimated four-weeks that footballers would need to get match ready. Speaking about the financial impact of the postponement of racing, Rust said resuming racing would save the taxpayer money. Stating “our industry employs 20,000 people in rural economies, most of them just earning a basic living – of course, we want some revenue to start flowing to make sure they’re looked after, and they’re not a burden on the national purse”.

Amy Murphy, who runs a yard in Newmarket, said the coronavirus crisis had been a “massive learning curve”. Emphasising the measures that the industry had adapted to ensure a safe return to racing, Murphy said the staff have stopped sharing equipment and no longer congregate in communal areas. Murphy also described the impact the crisis has had on training, saying that before the outbreak the horses used to ride out in big bunches of ten but now they keep three or four metres apart from each other.

Flat Pattern Planning Committee provisional schedule:

23rd-24th May: Pavilion, Sagaro, Paradise Stakes (Ascot); Nell Gwyn, Craven (Newmarket); Greenham, Fred Darling, Aston Park (Newbury); Brigadier Gerard (Sandown); Conqueror (Goodwood); Pinnacle (Haydock)

24th-31st May: Lockinge (Newbury); Palace House (Newmarket); Yorkshire Cup, Dante, Musidora, Middleton (York); Cecil Frail, Spring Trophy (Haydock).

5th-6th June: 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Pretty Polly, (Newmarket); Coronation Cup (Epsom); Bronte Cup (York)

All dates are subject to government approval and are unconfirmed at the time of writing.

If the proposals are accepted, it would mean the cancellation of Cheshire Oaks, the Dee Stakes and Ormonde Stakes at Chester. Lingfield’s Derby and Oaks Trials, Haydock’s Temple Stakes, the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, plus Goodwood’s Cocked Hat and Height of Fashion Stakes would also be affected.

The Guardian state that If the BHA can proceed with this “best-case” scenario, Royal Ascot would remain in its traditional position in mid-June, starting on 16 June, with the Derby and Oaks being staged in early July.