This year’s Galway Festival will be staged behind closed doors, if it goes ahead as planned in July.
The seven-day fixture is due to kick off on July 27, but with the Irish Government announcing on Tuesday that mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people will not be permitted up to the end of August, there will be no crowd at the track.
In a statement, general manager Michael Moloney said: “In light of the evolving situation regarding Covid-19, for public health and safety reasons Galway Race Committee has reached the difficult but unavoidable decision that the 2020 Galway Races Summer Festival, due to be held from Monday, July 27 to Sunday, August 2 will not be able to take place as an event open to the general public this year.
“We know this will be a huge disappointment for all our racegoers that attend year on year.
“It may prove possible to run the Galway Races behind closed doors, dependent on Government policy and the approval of Horse Racing Ireland and Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board.
“This would be for the benefit of the racing industry, our valued partners and our television audiences at home and internationally. We are currently planning for this scenario and we will update you on progress as and when we can.”
Moloney confirmed a full refund policy will be in operation for those who have already bought their tickets, adding: “We would like to sincerely thank you for your support and understanding during this unprecedented time.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected as a result of Covid-19. We offer our deepest gratitude to staff at the HSE, front line workers and members of our community nationwide for their dedication and perseverance.
“We look forward to being able to welcome you all back to Ballybrit when it is safe to do so. For now, please look after yourselves. Stay safe and healthy.”
As in Britain, fixtures in Ireland are currently suspended and will only recommence behind closed doors when authorities are advised it is safe to do. The last of 10 meetings held under those conditions in Ireland took place at Clonmel on March 24.
All mass gatherings in Ireland have been restricted since March 24 due to coronavirus restrictions and further health advice will be updated before May 5.