The Irish Government has given the green light for horse racing to restart behind closed doors, with fixtures capable of resuming from 8 June.
Only key staff needed to operate the fixture will be allowed to be on-site in compliance with government guidelines, and will be subject to a health survey and thermal temperature screening upon entry.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: “We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way.
“We know from our own experience in March when we safely ran ten meetings behind closed doors – and from what is happening in other countries like France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and America – that racing can be staged safely within the requirements of social distancing.
“With significant input from the IHRB’s chief medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh, we have strengthened the HRI Covid-19 protocols and so, while race fixtures will return in Ireland on June 8, they will be very different from what people will have experienced before.”
Participants in the racecourses will also be expected to wear face covers, and social distancing measures will be in place – which will be strictly enforced at each fixture by a dedicated COVID-19 protocol officer.
Kavanagh added: “We will publish our full protocols tomorrow and will require any key personnel necessary to run a race fixture to read the document in full. There must be full compliance with these protocols and to assist the industry in becoming familiar with the changed workplace, a series of webinars on the COVID-19 Protocols will be announced next week.
“On Sunday we will release a revised fixture list up to the end of June, including confirmation on when the Classics, traditionally scheduled for this time of year, will be run.”
Racing restarted behind closed doors on 7 May in Germany and on 11 May in France while the industry continued to run behind closed doors in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. The British Horseracing Authority plans to start racing in Britain on 1 June.
He continued: “I would like to acknowledge the constructive engagement with the Government throughout the consultative process through the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed and his officials. It was reassuring that the importance of horse racing as an industry was fully appreciated.
“The industry supports 29,000 jobs in rural Ireland, and we are the third-largest producer, and largest exporter, of thoroughbreds in the world, all of which depends on racing taking place on track.
“The decision to allow racing to resume behind closed doors will be welcomed within the industry. For Flat racing in-particular, but also for a significant portion of the National Hunt population, there is a seasonal and cyclical nature to the industry and these are key months in the trade and export of horses with proven form on the race track, as well as a vital period in the sales season.
“These will not be race meetings as you might traditionally imagine them, rather stripped back events which will determine the best horses in various categories, a vital factor for the breeding industry. Attendance will be kept to an absolute minimum and Covid-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.”