Owners will be allowed back on Irish racecourses next month, as part of new measures which will ease current strict protocols in place to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Horse Racing Ireland has announced two owners per horse will be permitted to attend “for their race(s) only” from July 20 – while from July 1, international entries can resume in premier handicaps as well as all black-type races under both codes.
The moves follow new Government amendments in Ireland for the phased reopening of businesses, and will take effect before the start of the high-profile Galway Festival on July 27.
They also come three days after the British Horseracing Authority promised UK owners it is hoping to publish proposals “very soon” which will enable them to watch their horses in person on course again.
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: “We are delighted to be able to confirm today that owners will be permitted to return to the racecourse on July 20, with certain restrictions.
“Owners play a key role in Irish racing, and their loyalty during this difficult period has been especially noteworthy, and from July 20 two owners per horse will be allowed to access the racecourse to see their horse run.”
It is one of several HRI amendments, some to be introduced on July 1 and others on July 20, to regulations which have been in force since the sport returned behind closed doors earlier this month.
They include, from July 1, the permitted return of those aged above 70 – as long as they fall into the working categories of those already allowed on course – and an increase of three to five in the number of journalists and photographers on course.
From July 20, as well as the return of owners – subject to pre-health screening and temperature checks on arrival which are in place for all – up to five representatives of sponsors or racecourse board members will be permitted to attend to take part in the return of trophy presentations, which will observe social distancing.
Safety limits for field sizes will remain at a general maximum of 18 per race, but 20 for premier handicaps at the Curragh and the established 20 and 22 for the Galway Hurdle and Plate respectively.
Kavanagh added: “While we’re announcing some easing of the restrictions today, it is very important that everybody continues to comply with the rules on the racecourse around social distancing and face masks, and the requirements around pre-health screening.
“We are working with racecourses around providing safe, achievable catering options for key personnel working at the racecourse and aim to have a consistent offering from July 20.”