Racing has set a date for its resumption from the coronavirus blackout – May 16.
And punters can look forward to two weekends of Group-race action behind closed doors in May, including trials for the 1000 and 2000 Guineas – and both Epsom Classics.
The British Horseracing Authority is holding its breath ahead of the government’s reappraisal of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions next Thursday.
But this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared Britain to be “past the peak and on the downward slope” – fuelling hopes of an ease in measures to combat the spread of the disease.
And, two days after a meeting between BHA top brass and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, racing took another step towards its restart when BHA chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill took part in talks with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden yesterday.
“Lots to consider, but today we step up planning,” tweeted Dowden, while a spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport added: “We held an initial, constructive meeting with medical representatives from a number of professional and elite sports bodies, government and Public Health England. Discussions with the sports bodies will continue on this.”
On Thursday, the BHA announced its intention to publish the first week of post-coronavirus fixtures – there has been no racing in Britain since March 17 – within the next few days.
To work through the backlog of horses waiting to run, three meetings of up to nine races each will be put on every day – including Sunday – with the maximum of 12 runners partnered by senior jockeys.
Having pencilled in May 16 as the comeback date, race planners at High Holborn are also working on the fixture list until the end of June, including many of the Group races wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nell Gwyn Stakes and Craven Stakes – along with the Sagaro Stakes and Brigadier Gerard Stakes – will take place during the penultimate weekend in May, with the Group One Lockinge Stakes, Dante Stakes and Musidora Stakes to follow a week later. The 1000 and 2000 Guineas and the Coronation Cup would be run in the first weekend of June
“We are preparing to race behind closed doors subject to the approval of the government, the BHA and the local NHS trust,” said York chief executive William Derby.