A restriction on field sizes to 12 runners per race and the use of only senior jockeys both feature in the latest plans for the potential resumption of racing in Britain.
The last meetings to take place in Britain were at Wetherby and Taunton on March 17, both behind closed doors. Any resumption will be phased and on the Flat behind closed doors, with all plans being subject to Government approval.
Updating trainers on the latest planning, a communication from the Resumption of Racing Group via the British Horseracing Authority said it was continuing to work on an outline fixture programme for the first two months of resumption.
The intention is to publish that “within the next fortnight”, with the aim of keeping the programme “as close to normal as practicable, with opportunities for all classes and ages of horse, including two-year-olds”. The size of the fixture list will be restricted initially and field sizes will have a maximum of 12 runners per race.
The email to trainers said that was “based on risk modelling, which indicates that field sizes of 12 or fewer reduces the risk to participants on the track and assists with social distancing requirements at the racecourse. We recognise that this will increase competition for places, so to help counteract this, we plan to extend the number of races on a card including by staging more divisions.”
It added: “Even though we intend to provide a balanced programme, it is likely that due to competition for places, some horses, particularly those that are lower rated, may find it difficult to get a run in the early stages of resumption. Indeed, this may be similar to the sort of situation that we usually face in the autumn.
“When conditions allow, more fixtures will be added and we also anticipate extending the Flat season beyond its normal end date, and so the connections of such horses may wish to take this into account in determining their plans. In summary, we have tried to reach a balance between minimising avoidable risk and providing as many opportunities as possible for horses to be able to run.
“We have taken in a similar risk mitigation approach in relation to jockeys, with analysis from the BHA’s medical department indicating that the more experienced riders are less likely to suffer injuries. Consequently, only the more senior jockeys will be able to ride under initial plans. This will be reviewed continually as resumption progresses.
“Finally, to further reduce risk for participants of infection from the virus in the early stages of resumption, no individual will be permitted to attend more than one fixture per day.”
On the subject of where and how racing may restart, the email said: “At this stage, we are not ruling out any model for resumption; all scenarios are being considered.
“On current planning, we anticipate that the early stage models for resumption would allow for horses to race behind closed doors under strict conditions at locations which meet specific criteria around risk mitigation and infection control.
“Once finalised, these criteria will be used to identify which racecourses may, in principle, be able to fulfil the safety requirements of racing behind closed doors under the strictest resumption models.
“Although jump racing will not take place before July 1, 2020, all Flat and jump racecourses will shortly be invited to apply to host fixtures and demonstrate how they are able to meet the conditions specified in each model.
“The Resumption of Racing Group will share with racecourses the assessment criteria and additional information about the submission process.
“Dr Jerry Hill, the BHA’s Chief Medical Adviser, who will play a key role in working with individual racecourses one on one, continues to work with medical advisers from other sports to coordinate planning around resumption in relation to risk mitigation and social distancing.
“Early next week, Brant Dunshea will meet representatives of other racing jurisdictions, including France, Ireland and Germany, to discuss how different countries are planning for resumption.”