Irish Horse Racing to Resume Behind Closed Doors on June 8

  • Racing will resume three weeks early, previous proposal suggested a return at the end of June
  • Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) will release its provisional racing schedule this weekend
  • Races will take place behind closed doors, numerous safety measures will be in place
  • Countries like Germany and France have already resumed racing without spectators
horse race taking the turn on the track at speed
Irish horse racing will resume behind closed doors on June 8 after talks between the government and Horse Racing Ireland. [Image:]

Government gives the green light

The Irish government has approved a proposal from Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to resume racing on June 8. Prior to this agreement, Irish horse racing wasn’t expected to return until June 29 at the earliest as per the government’s five-phase reopening plan. HRI will announce the revised racing schedule this weekend.

Irish horse racing wasn’t expected to return until June 29 at the earliest

HRI altered its initial proposal in an attempt to be able to restart at an earlier date. This final decision was arrived at during a Friday afternoon cabinet meeting. It means that racing will return as part of phase two.

HRI’s proposal was already approved by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Thursday. 

Necessary proposal revisions

As part of revisions to this proposal, clarification was needed on how exactly racing behind closed doors would work, and how well current health measures could be followed. This includes the proper enforcement of social distancing, figures on how many people will be present at the track on race day, and the presence of a contact tracing program. 

Some prominent politicians tweeted about the matter during the cabinet meeting. One of those politicians was Fine Gael’s Peter Burke.

HRI also issued a statement via Twitter on Friday afternoon:

Strict protocols in place

While the full set of protocols is set to be published this weekend, a brief overview of some of these new measures was outlined in the press release. HRI worked closely with its chief medical officer, Dr Jennifer Pugh, to develop these standards. 

A dedicated COVID-19 protocol officer will be strictly enforcing social distancing rule. Only key personnel will be allowed at the track. Those attending must undergo health screening before entering the facility. Anyone with an elevated temperature will be refused entry and told to consult their doctor. Face coverings will be mandatory even for jockeys and stall handlers.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh acknowledged the constructive engagement of the government throughout this process. The continuation of racing will be vital for the breeding industry in particular, with the overall sector employing 29,000 people.

Following the lead of other nations

Sporting organizations across the globe are working hard to get back on track. The UFC held live events on Wednesday and last Saturday. Other sports leagues, such as the German Bundesliga, are set to resume this weekend behind closed doors. 

Germany has been hosting races behind closed doors since May 7, while racing in France has continued without spectators since May 11. Some US states have also started allowing races. Throughout the pandemic, racing in Hong Kong, Australia, and Japan continued. In the UK, the British Horseracing Authority is planning to restart its racing calendar on June 1. 

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