Following the UK Government’s publication of a provisional timeline for the return of sport, we are now planning for racing to resume behind closed doors on 1 June.
To support this plan, the sport will publish by Monday a timetable setting out the preparatory steps we need to work on together, prior to the return of racing, to ensure we are ready to meet that date. This will include an outline of the processes and protocols that need to be agreed and communicated across the industry, and we will be asking for your help and support in ensuring that this “lead-in” preparation is completed as quickly as possible.
We know that significant changes have already been implemented across the industry – in training yards, at studs and on racecourses – to ensure strict adherence to social distancing measures and to help reduce the spread of the virus.
In the same manner, strict measures will be applied on racedays, and the racecourses are working with the BHA’s Course Inspectors to develop and implement the necessary requirements to provide the safest possible environment for all attendees. This includes planning for how a raceday will function – including entry and exit and movement around the site – whilst maintaining social distancing.
The details of these changes will be communicated to the industry in good time, to ensure that participants, staff and officials understand the requirements that have been introduced and how they will apply during a raceday.
As explained in previous updates, attendance at each meeting will be limited to only those personnel required to deliver the race fixture, with the number able to attend determined by public health restrictions in place at the time. These restrictions on attendance will be continually reviewed and gradually eased to accommodate connections, including owners, and other raceday staff in line with Government guidance.
Weatherbys horse vaccination app
The first of the preparatory measures being introduced, which we expect to launch on Monday, is to pre-clear vaccinations in horse passports via a new vaccination app, thereby assisting BHA staff and those responsible for the horses to maintain social distancing on racedays. As well as making the raceday operation more efficient, the vaccination app will also help prevent any raceday administrative issues around vaccination records.
Once the vaccination history has been cleared by the BHA, all future and subsequent vaccinations between the pre-clearance and race day should be uploaded directly by those responsible for the horse onto the Weatherbys Vaccination App.
Weatherbys will be contacting trainers tomorrow with details and will provide all necessary advice and support.
Fixture list and race planning
Last week we produced a provisional outline race programme to cover the initial period after resumption. Today we have published an updated list, which includes the racecourses where the first eight days of fixtures will be held. This can be viewed in full here.
We are also working with racecourses to develop a fixture list and race programme to cover 9 June onwards. This will provide greater clarity for racecourses and support participants, particularly trainers and owners, in planning for your horses. We intend to publish the fixture list and race programme for the remainder of June by the end of next week.
Additionally, the Flat Pattern Committee yesterday published an updated provisional plan for Flat Pattern and Listed races, which covers the first seven days following resumption – including the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas on 6 and 7 June, respectively. The timetable also includes provisional dates for Royal Ascot (16-20 June), the Derby and Oaks (Saturday 4 July) and the Eclipse (5 July).
As with all race planning at this point, the exact timetable is based on our best-case scenario planning and remains subject to an assessment by public health officials of the risks posed by the virus at the time.
Other important points to help with planning at this stage include:
- Handicapping – with the start of the season being delayed, we will help more horses become eligible for a handicap rating after two runs. A horse will be eligible for a handicap rating if it (i) finishes in the first six places on both of its first two starts, or (ii) has completed two starts having won first time out. We can also confirm that the handicap rating for any horse that has, as a result of either of these changes, become eligible to be rated, will be published within the ‘Official Ratings’ section of the BHA website on Tuesday 19 May.
- British-based horses – there will be no regional restrictions in place for British-based horses on resumption. However, the revised fixture list will seek to provide a good geographical spread of fixtures to maximise opportunities for horses across the country.
- Foreign trained runners – Details about the participation of foreign trained runners following the resumption of racing will be issued tomorrow.
- Jump racing – we continue to plan towards a resumption of Jump racing at the beginning of July. As confirmed previously, we will amend Jump novice status so that winners since the beginning of February will retain their novice status until 30 November.
Every effort is being made to keep this as high as possible on resumption, and we have today published the minimum prize money values for the first 10 weeks of racing.
The £15.7million in contributions from the Levy Board allows minimum prize money values to remain, on average, at just over 80% of the previously permitted levels, with a particular focus on safeguarding prize money at the mid to lower level races. This is primarily to support the retention of racehorse owners and horses in training.
As explained in previous updates, in normal circumstances, racecourses provide approximately half of prize money, but with racing staged behind closed doors and betting shops (which drive media rights income) closed, their contributions will be significantly impacted. The increased contribution from the Levy Board has allowed the sport to mitigate this to a certain extent, but it has not been possible to fully make up for the loss of revenue.
However, as with all areas of resumption, the minimum prize money values announced today are seen as a short-term measure, which will be under constant review, and it’s important that these values can be raised at the earliest possible opportunity.
The BHA’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Jerry Hill, continues to work with counterparts from other major sports, the UK Government and Public Health England to develop the principles around the safe resumption of sport. The BHA also remains in regular dialogue with the UK Sports Minister. These discussions will help inform and complement the work already being undertaken by the industry – in particular, racecourses – to facilitate a safe and responsible return to racing behind closed doors.
As explained above, the UK Government has set out its provisional timetable for the resumption of sport behind closed doors. The UK Government has also confirmed that it will work with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales to ensure where possible that plans for easing lockdown restrictions are coordinated.
It is, nonetheless, possible that circumstances and timescales may differ across the UK, and the BHA Public Affairs Team is also in direct contact with the Sport Ministers in Scotland and Wales around planning for a risk-managed resumption of racing as soon as possible.
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.