Horse racing in Ireland will continue behind closed doors

Despite yesterday’s decision to suspend the sport in Britain, HRI officials met by conference call today and opted not to call a temporary halt to it here.

Racing taking place without spectators at Dundalk last Friday.
Racing taking place without spectators at Dundalk last Friday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

HORSE RACING BEHIND closed doors is set to continue in Ireland following a meeting of officials today.

Racing in Ireland has taken place without spectators since Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic, with two fixtures staged on Tuesday for St Patrick’s Day.

However, the British Horseracing Authority announced that after the two meetings which took place behind closed doors in England on Tuesday, racing in the UK would be suspended until the end of April.

Horse Racing Ireland considered whether it should also call a temporary halt to the action, but having examined the issue, it has opted to carry on racing, albeit with even more stringent controls.

A HRI statement reads: “A meeting of the Board of Horse Racing Ireland agreed this afternoon that race meetings in Ireland would continue to be held in strict adherence to Government guidelines regarding Covid-19 and staged without members of the general public.

“This decision is motivated by the need to maintain employment and incomes for people working in the industry, and on the basis of being able to achieve and maintain all HSE advice and instructions.”

The extra measures mentioned are as follows:

  • There will be no evening meetings and no double meetings – this will reduce the draw on medical resources, a principal concern for larger racing jurisdictions with multiple meetings every day
  • A maximum of one meeting per day to reduce impact on resources
  • Jockeys’ weights to increase by 2lb from Friday, on the Flat and in National Hunt – all racecourse saunas are closed
  • No owners permitted to attend race meetings
  • No overseas runners will be permitted for the time being in Irish races
  • A maximum of 30-minute intervals between races to assist social distancing
  • The previously approved protocols will continue 

“These are unprecedented and sombre times and we are seeking the best ways to support the racing community and industry throughout what lies ahead,” said Nicky Hartery, chairman of Horse Racing Ireland.

“Health and welfare of employees and industry participants is the prime consideration and within that context, we have introduced protocols which can allow racing to continue and thousands of families who rely on the sector to maintain a livelihood.

“This will be kept under review on a daily basis and we are also planning measures for reprogramming fixtures as it becomes required. Changes to the programme will be separately announced.

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“We have consulted with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine throughout this process and we will continue to strictly adhere to the Government and HSE advice. We have made it clear at all times that our medical facilities and personnel will be available for the Government to use if necessary – that will take precedence above any other consideration.”

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