This week, racecourses have been invited to submit expressions of interest to stage fixtures under plans for the resumption of racing. This process will support the development of a provisional race programme.
As explained in previous updates, the plan for resumption is based on a phased approach that supports the transition of racing back to a normal fixture list, in a controlled and measured way. Different scenarios – or ‘phases’ – have been developed, which can be implemented and adapted as circumstances require, in accordance with public health guidelines.
It’s possible that not all phases will be required, but at this stage all scenarios are being considered so that we are prepared to race under whatever circumstances exist at the time that racing is able restart.
In the early stages of this model, racing would resume behind closed doors under strict conditions, at locations that meet specific criteria around risk mitigation and infection control. This may include full quarantine conditions at secured sites if absolutely necessary, or behind closed doors racing, with sites limited to those that are able to meet strict hygiene conditions, social distancing measures and appropriate medical provision.
Under the strictest infection control scenarios, attendance at the site(s) would be limited to staff essential to delivering the race fixture. These restrictions on personnel will be continually reviewed and gradually eased to accommodate connections, including owners and trainers, in line with Government guidance.
All locations will need to adhere to stringent medical and risk mitigation protocols, to the satisfaction of the BHA Chief Medical Adviser, to minimise the risk of injury and incident and reduce any unnecessary pressures on local NHS provision.
Equally, they will also need to follow strict biosecurity protocols to manage risks associated with horse transportation in and out of the site. These protocols are being developed through the Resumption of Racing Group and in collaboration with industry experts and other major sports.
The BHA’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, is part of a working group of medical advisers from major sports that is meeting with the UK Culture Secretary and Public Health England officials, to discuss the principles around the safe resumption of sport.
The Resumption of Racing Group is also engaging with counterparts in other racing jurisdictions on plans for resumption in different countries. Earlier this week, Brant Dunshea joined a call with representatives from France, Ireland and Germany, where it was noted that some European nations have resumed racing behind closed doors this week, including Norway. Germany will resume from next week and work continues in France and Ireland toward resumption planning.
Our French colleagues are working on a resumption behind closed doors from 11 May. It will be a step by step process as racing resumes in France with no foreign runners permitted until 1 June. However, subject to multiple factors including an easing of government travel restrictions, France Galop hopes to be welcoming foreign runners from that date, when they plan to run the French Guineas.
Germany has also confirmed that foreign runners will not be permitted until at least 22 May (inclusive).
Fixture list and race planning
To help trainers plan, during the next week we will be developing a provisional programme for the first seven days of racing following resumption – whatever the resumption date. We will then subsequently publish the rest of the provisional programme up until the end of June. This will be as close as possible to the original programme for the period, which means we will be looking to stage roughly the same number of races by type, class and distance.
Ahead of this, we will issue a fixture cancellation notice for all fixtures that were originally scheduled to take place during May and June. This simply reflects the fact that we will be publishing a new provisional programme and does not seek to pre-empt or pre-judge any Government decisions around lockdown or resumption.
As explained in last week’s update, the initial resumption of racing will be a staged and measured process, with only a small number of fixtures initially, subject to advice from public health authorities. This will be kept under continual review, with further fixtures added in a phased and controlled manner as circumstances permit.
We will also look to confirm prize money values as soon as possible. In normal circumstances, racecourses provide approximately half of prize money, but with betting shops, which drive media rights income, closed and no crowds, their contributions will be significantly impacted. Every effort will be made to keep prize money as high as possible, but reductions below recent levels are inevitable.
Other relevant points to assist in making plans at this stage include:
• In the early stages of racing resuming, we plan to restrict races to the most experienced riders, which includes jockeys who claim a maximum of 3lbs. This aims to support risk management and infection control by minimising the number of people in confined areas. The decision will be reviewed continually as resumption progresses.
• We also intend to limit field sizes to 12 runners, at least initially. In response to queries that we have received, there are no plans to restrict the number of runners that any owner or trainer can have in a single race.
• We have said previously that we would like to help more horses become eligible for a handicap rating after two runs. This will be achieved by making horses eligible for a rating if they have finished in the first six places on both of their first two starts.
• Non-standard handicap bands will be utilised in the programme, with at lower levels, races programmed with 2lbs between the tops of the bands. For example, races staged for horses rated up to 66, 68, 70 etc. Over longer trips where there is less competition for places, there will be between 3lbs and 5lbs between the tops of the bands.
• Under our best-case scenario planning, the programme of nurseries will commence slightly later than normal, at the beginning of August.
Finally, we continue to plan towards a resumption of Jump racing at the beginning of July. Please note that following the suspension of racing, we will amend Jump novice status so that winners since the beginning of February will retain their novice status until 30 November.
As ever, the approach outlined above is based on our best-case scenario planning and would need to be adjusted accordingly depending on when and how racing is able to recommence.
2020 Flat Pattern Programme
As outlined last week, under our best-case scenario planning, the aim is to save a number of Pattern and Listed events from early spring by rescheduling them, ideally in the second half of May. We will share this list of races at the earliest possible opportunity, together with those races that have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. As noted previously, a later restart would require these plans to be adjusted accordingly.
Overall, the key principles for the black type programme for 2020 are that the Classics are the priority, and that the flagship older-horse races will need to be slotted in around them.
Earlier this week, the BHA’s Chair, Annamarie Phelps, and Chief Executive, Nick Rust, met the UK Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, to discuss racing’s plans for resumption and the wider economic impact of covid-19 on the industry. The Minister is aware of and supports the work being undertaken for resumption at the earliest safe opportunity.
The discussion outlined that any restart would be subject to advice of public health authorities and could not apply undue pressure on medical services and available testing. It also considered how continued exercise of racehorses during the lockdown could reduce the time for competition to resume.
The Minister also addressed the resumption of racing in the House of Commons on Monday in response to a Parliamentary Question from Newbury and Lambourn MP, Laura Farris. In his answer, the Minister explained that while it’s not possible at this stage to set a timescale for the lifting of current restrictions, potential conditions in which sport might return include behind closed doors, with limited staff and with consideration of first responder capacity and regular testing – all of which are incorporated into the plan for resumption of racing.
Next week, the Scottish racecourses will be joining representatives from other major sports bodies at a meeting with the Scottish Sports Minister. This will provide an opportunity to discuss the resumption of sport in Scotland, where the approach to exiting lockdown and easing restrictions may differ from other UK countries.
Finally, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies, has submitted a question to the Welsh Government on the business support being made available to the thoroughbred sector in Wales, to ensure this is equivalent to the support available to counterparts across the UK.
The Resumption of Racing Group is comprised of representatives from the BHA, the Horsemen’s Group, the Racecourse Association and the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB).
The Group is working to ensure that racing is prepared and in a position to restart at the earliest possible opportunity.
We hope that this information is useful and provides reassurance that racing will be ready to resume as soon as conditions allow.
The Resumption of Racing group will continue to send regular updates to keep you informed about progress. We are also developing an FAQs document , which will be published on the BHA website and shared in future resumption updates.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you wish to discuss any aspect of this work in more detail:
Resumption planning: Brant Dunshea [email protected]
Fixture list and race planning: Richard Wayman [email protected]
2020 Flat Pattern programme: Ruth Quinn [email protected]
General enquiries: [email protected]
We would also ask that you feed in any questions or matters for consideration to the NTF so that these can be relayed to the Resumption Group to be addressed in future updates. Please note, the NTF is collating feedback from both members and non-members for the purposes of resumption planning.
As ever, we would like to thank you for your patience, understanding and support as we continue to shape this work. Our priority is to get back racing at the earliest opportunity.