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UK RACING BLACKOUT: We’ve seen a remarkable turn of events in the UK in the last seven days. This time last week, the highlight of the year – the Cheltenham Festival – was going ahead. Then the BHA made the decision to go behind closed doors on Tuesday which was quickly changed to calling off all racing from Wednesday onwards.


The UK government must take a lot of the blame. Cheltenham officials were only following their advice and that advice has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours. What the UK government have seen to make racing behind closed doors OK on Tuesday to not until after April on Wednesday remains to be announced to the public.

Nick Rust, the Chief Executive of the BHA, said: “This is a national emergency the like of which most of us have never seen before. We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.

“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.

“There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.

“We are in constant contact with government which understands the very significant consequences of this decision for jobs and businesses. We will work with them to do our best to manage the impact.

“Racing leaders will keep today’s decision under constant review and endeavour to keep all customers, participants, staff and dependent businesses informed as the situation progresses.”

Irish officials will be meeting on Wednesday at 1pm to see whether they will continue to race behind closed doors or call off racing altogether.

It should be noted that the situation in Ireland is very different to the UK, Ireland closed schools a lot earlier and have also closed pubs while they remain open in the UK. Trainers and jockeys were also very confident in the procedures the HRI have put in place; but pressure will surely mount on the HRI given what’s happened to racing in the UK. Let’s hope racing can continue in Ireland behind closed doors given the excellent reviews the HRI have been getting from industry professionals.


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