The Irish government has confirmed that horse racing will be able to resume from 8 June, following the suspension of activities due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Irish racing moved behind closed doors on 13 March, but the government then announced a full suspension of all sports events in the country later that same month.
Horse Racing Ireland had initially hoped to recommence racing in mid-April, but this date was pushed back as the country dealt with the ongoing crisis.
However, the government said it would permit racing to resume behind closed doors from next month, but with a number of measures in place, including strict limits on the racing personnel in attendance.
“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,” Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh said.
“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.”
Among the other measures that will be in place are a requirement for all staff in attendance to be subject to health screening in advance and thermal temperature screening on arrival. Anyone with an elevated temperature will not be permitted to attend.
Horse Racing Ireland will also insist on the mandatory wearing of face coverings for on-track personnel such as jockeys, stalls handlers, medical professionals and security staff. People over the age of 70 will not be allowed to attend races for the time being.
Social distancing will be enforced by a dedicated coronavirus protocol officer at each fixture, while all surfaces will be regularly disinfected before racing and throughout the race day, and all indoor areas well ventilated.
In addition, Horse Racing Ireland will host a new series of educational webinars to assist further understanding of the changes people will encounter when returning to work on the racecourse.
“The decision to allow racing to resume behind closed doors will be welcomed within the industry,” Kavanagh said. “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.”
Horse Racing Ireland will announce further details about the dates and times of races in the coming days.
Ireland is the latest country to permit racing to return behind closed doors amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the British Horseracing Authority said it plans to recommence racing from 1 June, while racing in New Zealand is also set to return later this month.
Racing also restarted in Germany on 7 May and in France on 11 May, while in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, the industry continued operating behind closed doors.