French racing could resume on May 11 under strict health conditions and with all participants from abroad – both equine and human – not permitted until at least the end of that month.
France Galop issued a statement on Wednesday evening outlining the restrictions expected to be imposed should racing get the go-ahead to return behind closed doors.
The sport has been suspended since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a number of meetings held without spectators leading up to that date.
France Galop’s statement said: “Horseracing, which has been suspended since March 17, could resume from May 11 under strictly controlled health conditions.
“France would hence follow other European countries that are also preparing to gradually relaunch their horseracing activities.
“Tens of thousands of French households depend on the racing industry. From studs to yards, it is an important workforce that cares and looks after the well-being of horses.
“During the suspension of horseracing most of them have been able to continue with their work, as horses and especially competition horses, cannot remain inactive.
“The yards and studs have hence continued their activities without being able to count on revenues generated by competition, which is their “raison d’être”.”
Numbers of people on course during meetings are set to be restricted, with France Galop and LeTrot, which is the governing body of trotting racing, setting out stringent measures.
The statement continued: “When racing resumes, France Galop and LeTrot’s main priority is to protect the health and safety of the people involved in the organisation of race meetings.
“These race meetings will be run behind closed doors for as long as necessary and in the strictest conditions, as it was already done in the final days leading to the suspension of horseracing in France.
“This successful experience of holding race meetings behind closed doors at racecourses in the Oise region in March provides a solid basis to ensure the health security at future race meetings.
“Race meetings behind closed doors will be subject to very strict specifications. For example, only the trainer, the jockey or driver and one lad can accompany and look after a horse declared to run in a race.
“Personnel in charge of the organisation and regulation of horseracing will also be limited to the strict minimum.
“Access to the racecourse will be strictly controlled and all attendees will receive the necessary equipment to work in good conditions without taking any risks. Shared areas will be adapted to avoid contact between racing professionals.
“In order to mitigate the health risk, horses trained abroad and jockeys holding a foreign licence (apart from jockeys quarantined in France) will not be allowed to ride in races in France until the end of May at least.”
France Galop conceded the procedures “do not allow the organisation of all the races initially programmed, as some racecourses do not have the capacity to meet the regulatory requirements” and prize money could be impacted if PMU cafes, the main betting locations in the country, remain closed.
France Galop said: “Regarding the fixture list, with a view that the sport will resume on May 11, the parent companies are placing a strong emphasis on finding a suitable balance between the different divisions, which ensure the success of the French racing and breeding industry.
“France Galop and LeTrot will publish their fixture lists in the following days.
“Prize money policy from the moment racing resumes depends on the outcome of discussions that are currently being held with the responsible ministers.
“In fact, prize money and premiums are financed through betting and if racing resumes on May 11, PMU betting shops will only be partially operational, depriving betting operators and the entire racing industry from essential income.
“The meeting that took place on April 21 between the Presidents of the parent companies and the Minister of Public Action and Accounts and the Minister of Agriculture proved constructive and discussions between the leaders of the parent companies and the Government authorities continue so that the racing industry can overcome the financial losses caused by this health crisis.”
The authority also underlined the return of racing will be dependent on Government approval, with French President Emmanuel Macron having extended the country’s lockdown until May 11 last week.
The statement concluded: “If France Galop and LeTrot are doing everything they can for horseracing to resume in France on May 11, the resumption is nonetheless dependent on the development of the pandemic and the measures taken by the Government in view of a gradual exit out of lockdown.
“The parent companies will respond promptly and will be able to adapt their plans of resumption in accordance with the constraints imposed by the Government.”