Behind closed door racing gets full backing
While the Grand National Festival has been lost amid the control measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus, British Racing is set to carry on ‘behind closed doors’.
As and from Tuesday 17th March the British Horseracing Authority has initiated plans to race without spectators in England and Wales, following similar moves in Scotland and Ireland.
Taunton and Wetherby, where they race on Tuesday, will be the first tracks in England to race behind closed doors.
BHA warn of more cancellations
Behind closed doors racing is set to be in place at least until the end of March, though the BHA has also confirmed that some meetings may have to be cancelled to protect industry staff and to free up critical public services during the coronavirus pandemic.
BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said: “Racecourses and racing yards are embedded in their local communities and we’re acutely aware of our responsibilities to protect public health.
“The restrictions we’re putting in place to close racing to spectators and limit attendees will reduce demand on public services.”
Nicholls behind decision to race in isolation
Britain’s champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls has put his support behind the decision to race on behind closed doors, insisting it remains important for the racehorse population, while also showing that the sport is attempting to do what it can for the greater good amid the current Covid-19 outbreak.
“The horses have still got to be exercised and trained and fed and looked after whether they race or not, so if we can carry on without doing any harm to anyone it’s a good thing,” said Nicholls.
“All the work behind the scenes still has to happen whether we race or not, you can’t just leave the horses in their boxes and turn them out. They still have to be trained, fed and looked after and while we are doing that we obviously want to run if it’s possible to do it.
“Whatever we do in everyday life there is a risk at the moment, we’ve just got to be vigilant and use common sense. I’m sure they are doing the right thing.”
Racing must keep people safe
Ahead of the announcement that the Grand National Festival at Aintree was to be cancelled, Emma Lavelle, president of the National Trainers Federation, insisted that racing has a duty of care to the wider community.
She said racing behind closed doors is a good option at this juncture, whilst reiterating that the sport needs to do everything in its power to ensure it is “keeping everybody safe”.
“In the current climate and with what’s happening both here and across the rest of Europe, it obviously makes sense that we should be taking that approach and keeping everybody safe,” said Lavelle.
“All we can do is look after our staff and look after our horses. The horses still need to be exercised, obviously, and looking after our staff and our horses is the main priority.
“It’s a positive thing for racing to be able to continue, but limiting any risk by reducing by far the number of people that are there.
“It’s extraordinary times and a time when everything is evolving at speed and I think we [racing] have to do the same.”