Racing in Ireland to resume on 8th June 2020

Following confirmation from the Government that race fixtures in Ireland can resume behind closed doors the Board of Horse Racing Ireland has agreed a number of fixture and prize money recommendations.

It sees Irish racing return behind closed doors at Naas on 8th June, with National Hunt racing resuming at Limerick on 22nd June. The 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas will take place at the Curragh in the first week of action, with the 2,000 Guineas on Friday 12th June and the 1,000 Guineas on Saturday 13th June. The Irish Derby retains its traditional date on Saturday 27th June, as does the Irish Oaks on Saturday 18th July. Irish Champions Weekend will take place on 12th and 13th September.

For the first three weeks, racing will be restricted to nine racecourses which are more centrally located to minimise travel distances and which also have higher stable capacities given the requirement for one stable per horse under the new protocols. Wherever possible 8-race cards will be staged to maximise opportunities for the horse population. Safety limits will be decided on a racecourse by racecourse basis to accommodate each track’s social distancing requirements, with a general maximum limit of 18 initially. It has been agreed that Cork racecourse will not be among those used in June when it will continue to serve an important role as an HSE Test Centre for Covid-19.

A full programme of races for these fixtures in June, and the Black Type and Premier Handicap race schedule for the full year, will be published next week. International participation will be restricted to Group 1 and Group 2 races only for June, all of which must be in strict compliance with Government policy on the movement of people in and out of the country. It is envisaged that all Black Type races will be open to international competition from the start of July.

All the fixtures will take place under the strict protocols published yesterday by Horse Racing Ireland. One of those protocols involves the prior health screening of all those who will be in attendance at each race meeting and, to facilitate the efficient delivery of this, 48-hour declarations will be introduced for all races in June.

Arising from the financial situation the industry finds itself in, regrettably a number of prize money reductions will take immediate effect for June, with the possibility that further downward adjustments will be required through the rest of the year. The focus has been on maintaining prize money levels in the lower to medium tiers as high as possible.

The new proposed prize money for Group 1 races already closed, or about to close for entry, sees the Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes both cut to €750,000 (by 50% and 40% from €1.5m and €1.25m respectively) with significant reductions to all other Group 1 races throughout the year. The 1000 and 2000 Guineas will both be worth €250,000.

General prize money reductions, initially to the end of June, are as follows: 

  • Base values for Group 1 Flat races cut by 30%-50%
  • Base values for races above €50,000 cut by at least 25%
  • Base values for races above €20,000 to €50,000 cut by 20%
  • Base values for races above €15,000 to €20,000 cut by 15%
  • Base values for races from €10,000 to €15,000 cut by 10%
  • Minimum value of €10,000 cut by 10% to €9,000
  • Entries fees for all races will be reduced in line with prize money reductions

There will be no apprentice races or claiming races in the opening two weeks, and 10lb claimers with less than six rides will not be permitted to take rides in the first fortnight.

With no racecourse saunas permitted to open under the Covid-19 protocols, the 2lb increase in weights introduced in March will continue to be applied to all races.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “With the confirmation on Friday of the resumption of racing on 8th June, we are now publishing the fixture list and the associated details for the first three weeks of racing.

“We are grateful to everybody for the patience they have shown during this very difficult time and we will provide every opportunity for essential personnel to fully understand and implement the return to racing protocols. Regrettably, due to the financial circumstances of the industry, prize money cuts are inevitable and we have adopted a tiered approach, endeavouring to protect the grassroots of the industry as much as possible.

“We expect there to be significant demand for horses to run once we resume, and we will aim to provide opportunities across the spectrum of age, gender and ability. We will have missed 11 weeks’ racing which will take some time to catch up. We intend to do this over the course of the rest of the year rather than immediately.

“The resumption of racing will allow sales, trade and other ancillary services to get going again and will be widely welcomed in those areas.

“Horse Racing Ireland are liaising closely with our international counterparts regarding the resumption of racing in those countries and issues such as protocols, international runners and prize money levels.”

JUNE FIXTURES (Flat unless otherwise indicated)

8th June – Naas

9th June – Leopardstown

10th June – Navan

11th June – Gowran Park

12th & 13th June – Curragh – Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas

14th June – Leopardstown

15th June – Fairyhouse, Roscommon

17th June – Gowran Park, Limerick

18th June – Fairyhouse

19th June – Tipperary, Gowran Park

20th June – Naas

21st June – Leopardstown

22nd June – Roscommon, Limerick (NH)

23rd June – Navan

24th June – Naas, Roscommon (NH)

25th June – Fairyhouse

26th, 27th & 28th June – Curragh, Tipperary (NH) – Irish Derby

29th June – Limerick, Kilbeggan (NH)

Strict Covid-19 protocols

Only key personnel necessary to run each fixture will be permitted to be on site where they will be subject to strict Covid-19 protocols. All those in attendance will be subject to health surveying in advance and thermal temperature screening on entry.

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.”

Among the new protocols that will be enforced when fixtures restart behind closed doors in Ireland are:

1. Only key personnel will be permitted to attend race fixtures 

2. All attendees will be subject to health screening in advance and thermal temperature screening on arrival – anyone presenting with elevated temperatures will be denied access and instructed to consult with their GP 

3. Mandatory wearing of face coverings for many attendees including jockeys, stalls handlers, medical professionals, security staff, those working inside etc 

4. Social distancing will be strictly enforced by a dedicated Covid-19 protocol officer at each fixture

Racing restarted behind closed doors in Germany on 7th May and in France on 11th May, while in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong the industry continued operating behind closed doors. In Britain, the British Horseracing Authority plans to resume racing on 1st June.

Brian Kavanagh, added: “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.”

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