Derby, Oaks Races Among Four Classics Canceled Due to COVID-19

  • Jockey Club Racecourses announced indefinite postponement of Guineas, Derby, Oaks events
  • Royal Ascot race, which attracts 300,000 people, could take place behind closed doors
  • Classics could be rescheduled later in the year, BHA developing suitable program plans 
Ascot racecourse
With four Classics among England’s horse racing events postponed indefinitely over COVID-19, the Royal Ascot could still take place behind closed doors. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Race events postponed indefinitely

The first four of England’s racing Classics, including the Epsom Derby, have been canceled due to COVID-19.

Jockey Club Racecourses officials have announced that the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, due to take place on the first weekend of May, and the Derby and Oaks, which would normally occur in early June, have been postponed indefinitely.

The fifth Classic in the British flat racing season is the St Ledger, which concludes the year at Doncaster. The 2020 event is scheduled for September 12.

Royal Ascot may be held behind closed doors

Meanwhile, Ascot Racecourse CEO Guy Henderson said they reached the “difficult but unavoidable conclusion” that this year’s racing event would not be open to the public.

difficult but unavoidable conclusion”

It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, Henderson added in his statement. This would be dependent on government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA [British Horseracing Authority] to restart racing.

The five-day meeting, which is attended by Her Majesty The Queen, usually attracts around 300,000 racegoers across the five days.

The annual event, which sees the Queen’s carriage procession before racing, brings in around 60,000 visitors a day. However, with the spread of COVID-19, there is no way Ascot can go ahead with racegoers in attendance. As a consequence, Henderson noted that the pandemic will have a “significant financial impact” on the business this year, along with many others.

Event rescheduling talks

Following the announcement from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in March that racing will be suspended until the end of April, Ascot said they were “considering a range of options” regarding their summer programme.

The four Classics, which are solely for three-year-old horses, could restart later this year. However, that could mean bumping into competing races at other tracks. As reported by BBC Sport, the BHA said it is “developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered in these challenging times.”