Musselburgh and Kelso are waiting to discover if their meetings next week will go ahead – or take place behind closed doors – following Scottish Government advice to delay the spread of coronavirus by cancelling mass gatherings.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spelled out planned measures north of the border, following a Cobra meeting in London which confirmed the UK is entering the delay phase of tackling the pandemic.
In Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the immediate closure of schools and colleges – and a ban on outdoor events involving crowds of 500 or more, initially until March 29.
As of Dundalk on Friday evening, 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.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has, however, stopped short of cancelling major sports events as yet – and the Cheltenham Festival will reach its conclusion with upwards of 60,000 expected to attend Friday’s Gold Cup.
Musselburgh, due to race next Friday, has twice tweeted the course’s intention to update the status of that meeting as soon as possible.
The Tweet read: “Musselburgh is consulting with industry bodies and stakeholders regarding next Friday’s (March 20) race meeting in light of Scottish Government decision regarding staging events with more than 500 people. We will clarify the situation as soon as possible.”
Kelso has two meetings next week, on Monday and again the following Saturday.
The British Horseracing Authority has jurisdiction for racing either side of the border, and issued a brief statement on Friday morning.
The statement read: “The British Horseracing Authority – on behalf of the racing industry’s COVID 19 group – has been in regular contact with Government over the response to the virus.
“British racing has been preparing for a range of contingencies, including possible restrictions on mass gatherings. When we have further details of the impact of the guidance from the Scottish Government, we will share them.”
Kelso racecourse also issued a statement on Friday morning, confirming on its website that plans remain in place for Monday’s meeting.
It read: “The racecourse is in contact with the British Horseracing Authority, which is taking advice from the relevant Government departments. We currently anticipate racing as normal, although if and when the Government advise changes, we will react accordingly.
“In the event that we are required to conduct racing behind closed doors, without admitting racegoers, all pre-booked tickets or packages will be refunded.”