Kelso meeting to be run behind closed doors on Monday

BHA still closely following UK Government advice.

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Monday’s meeting at Kelso will take place behind closed doors following the Scottish Government advice to delay the spread of coronavirus by cancelling mass gatherings.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined planned measures north of the border following a Cobra meeting in London on Thursday, which confirmed the UK is entering the delay phase of tackling the pandemic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stopped short of cancelling major sports events as yet, although the Premier League is suspended until April 4, with the Football League on hold until April 3 and this weekend’s Six Nations clash between Wales and Scotland also called off on Friday.

The British Horseracing Authority reiterated it is following official Government advice in allowing meetings in England and Wales to go ahead as normal for now.

A statement issued on Friday afternoon said: “British racing continues to be in close contact with the UK Government and has been following their advice to continue with business as usual, subject to public health guidance.

“We are aware of the decisions taken by a number of sports today to suspend fixtures in advance of any Government decision coming into effect.

“Racing’s leaders are monitoring the situation daily and are currently considering a range of options in this rapidly developing situation. Contingency plans are ready as required.

“We are seeking further guidance from the Scottish Government after their decision yesterday to ban outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people to protect the resilience of critical emergency services.

“Prior to receiving detailed advice from Scottish Government, racing at Kelso on Monday will be behind closed doors. The number of staff and participants will be below the Scottish Government’s figure of 500 for outdoor gatherings.”

Kelso clerk of the course Anthea Morshead said: “For us in Scotland, it’s a slightly different picture because Nicola Sturgeon has issued this guidance for no crowds over 500 people in Scotland.

“At the moment people are looking for guidance and to see what is happening. We’ve taken this decision just until there is more clarity.

“It will be a quiet day for a crowd anyway on Monday. So that people know for definite that we’re going ahead, we’re racing but we will race behind closed doors until there is further clarification.

“We very much hope we will be able to open to the public for our big day on Saturday, March 21.

“Scottish Government said they will come back to us on Monday afternoon which is too late for us and our customers so we have had to make a decision so people know exactly what’s happening.”

Musselburgh is also due to stage racing next week and racecourse general manager Bill Farnsworth said: “We will follow the guidelines issued by the Scottish Government and explore all options available to us to establish if we can continue racing during this exceptional time.

“The Racing Post Go North meeting has more than £160,000 in prize-money and is a very important fixture for Scottish trainers and stables across the north of England.

“The racing industry, the owners, trainers and stable staff, need all the support they can get and its incumbent on us to continue racing if possible, which helps maintain jobs and incomes.”

Fixtures are also scheduled at Musselburgh on March 31 and Easter Saturday (April 11).

Farnsworth added: “In the weeks leading up to future meetings we will review the situation on a daily basis, always following expert advice on how we can play our part in mitigating the spread of Covid-19.

“We will provide regular updates our website and social media channels, to advise racegoers, owners and trainers on and potential changes to our scheduled race meetings.”

In Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the immediate closure of schools and colleges on Thursday – and a ban on outdoor events involving crowds of 500 or more, initially until March 29.

Horse Racing Ireland will therefore hold all race meetings behind closed doors in that time period – with stringent restrictions on the number allowed on track to look after their horses.

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