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Talking Horses: Scottish racing plans to be back in action from 22 June


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he British Horseracing Authority said on Thursday that it is planning a resumption of racing in Scotland at Ayr on 22 June, “in accordance with the Scottish government’s route map for exiting lockdown”, with fixtures also planned for Hamilton Park (24 and 28 June) and Musselburgh (30 June) before the end of next month.

Final declarations for Monday’s card behind closed doors at Newcastle, which is expected to be the first meeting in Britain since mid-March, are due to be published on Friday morning, but Scotland’s more cautious path out of lockdown in comparison to that in England means that sport will not be possible, even behind the closed doors, until later in the month.

The provisional fixture list for July and August in Scotland, which was also published on Thursday evening, includes a further 20 meetings, including a return of jump racing at Perth on 21 July. Further National Hunt fixtures are also planned at Perth on 11 August and 30 August.

Scotland staged one of the last meetings in Britain before the lockdown to prevent spread of coronavirus, and one of the only meetings to date behind closed doors, at Kelso on 16 March. Kelso is, however, the only Scottish track not to feature on the provisional list.

The BHA’s update to trainers on Thursday also states that “fixtures in Wales [during June, July and August] will only be confirmed following further consultation with the Welsh government, with whom the BHA is in regular communication”.

Aidan O’Brien said on Thursday that he could have as many as four runners in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on 6 June as he attempts to win the Classic for the fourth year running and the 11th time in all.

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Arizona (7-1), who took the Coventry Stakes at last year’s Royal Ascot, is prominent in the ante-post betting along with Wichita (20-1), another son of the sprinter No Nay Never, who finished third behind Pinatubo, the 2,000 Guineas favourite, in the Dewhurst Stakes in October. 

“There’s the two No Nay Nevers,” O’Brien said in a conference call from his Ballydoyle base, “then there’s New World Tapestry, Royal Dornoch (33-1) and Royal Lytham (33-1), that’s what we’re thinking at the moment. Probably the horses we want to run at [Royal] Ascot [in mid-June] will have to run at Newmarket. That makes it a little bit tricky for us, but that’s what we’re thinking and we could run three, we could run four.”

O’Brien’s planning is further complicated by the Irish government’s mandatory two-week quarantine rule for all citizens returning to the country from abroad, which also means the trainer himself will not be at Newmarket on Saturday week.

Instead, several members of his staff will take up residence in Newmarket for several weeks, to pick up horses arriving by plane for both the Guineas meeting and Royal Ascot and then drop them back at the airport after their races.

O’Brien also suggested that Amhran Na Bhfiann, who finished well down the field on his only start at two, could be a dark horse for the Derby in early July. 

“Amhran Na Bhfiann had one run, he could be a possible,” O’Brien said. “It’s going to be very different this year, because we can’t go to you for trials, and it’s going to be limited for trials here after our first week [from 8 June] as it’s going to be getting quite close. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if very unexposed horses ran in the Derby with exposed horses if that happens.”

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