The coronavirus pandemic has inevitably had a serious impact on horse racing but there have been some more encouraging signs in recent days. French racing returned, albeit behind closed doors, on Monday 11th May. Provisional plans have also been drawn up for racing to resume in Britain at the start of June. Here is a look at what is currently available for horse racing fans and a sneak preview of what lies ahead.
US racing keeps the show on the road
The United States has kept the show on the road with some states allowed to continue racing in the absence of spectators. Gulfstream, Tampa Bay, Fonner Park, and Will Rogers Downs have provided regular online viewing for racing fans across the globe. Looking further ahead, the Kentucky Derby has been moved to September followed by the Preakness with the Belmont now scheduled for early October.
Santa Anita re-opens on Friday 15th May after receiving approval from the LA County Health Department. Face masks are mandatory with all participants facing temperature screening on arrival. Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco is also re-opening with all tracks observing the social distancing measures.
Racing has also been taking place in Australia and Hong Kong during the pandemic, subject to similar safety conditions. Racing in Germany emerged from the shadows at Hanover on May 8th with their first meeting since March.
Classic resumption planned for UK
British racing authorities had hoped to be given the green light for a return to action in mid-May but June 1st is now the earliest possible start date. The loss of the first two months of the flat racing season will have a concertina effect on the pattern race program. Provisional plans feature the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas being run on the 6th and 7th June respectively.
There has been much conjecture over the prospect of staging Royal Ascot behind closed doors. The meeting is one of the premier social events of the summer season but much of the gloss will be taken off the event this year. It is currently penciled in for June 16th to June 20th.
With so much disruption to the traditional racing schedule, the early season races could be a minefield for punters. With little or no recent form to go on, you may find OLBG’s racing tips worth following. The well-established site covers races from the USA, Britain, and Ireland in fine detail.
The Epsom Derby is scheduled to take place on July 4th after the course received permission from the local council to fence off the entire perimeter. The racecourse crosses common land which is normally open to the public but a special 24-hour license has been granted. The Epsom Oaks will also take place on the same day.
Ireland facing delayed re-start
Horse racing in Ireland is currently involved in discussions to bring forward a proposed re-start date of June 29th. That date was announced last week by the government as the earliest possible resumption for behind-closed-doors sporting events. Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) took a few days to digest the news before embarking on a campaign to seek an earlier start date.
Ireland managed just one day of flat racing on turf before the lockdown. The all-powerful yard of Aidan O’Brien was responsible for the final winner that day and could be disadvantaged when it comes to the English Classics. O’Brien already has a remarkable 35 English Classic wins under his belt and won the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, and Derby in 2019.
The 2020 racing year will be unique and it is entirely possible that crowds will not return to the track until 2021. However, it seems certain that every effort will be made to maintain the pattern race series with top International racing throughout the summer and autumn.