All racing in Britain will be suspended from Wednesday until the end of April due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the British Horseracing Authority has announced.
The news follows Monday’s statement that British racing would initially be run behind closed doors until the end of March, while Jockey Club Racecourses announced that the Randox Health Grand National meeting had been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tuesday’s scheduled meetings at Wetherby and Taunton will go ahead behind closed doors.
The BHA said in a statement the decision will be kept under “constant review”.
The statement added: “The formal decision was taken by Board of the British Horseracing Authority this morning based on the statements made by the government yesterday and after consultation with senior industry leaders. Medical advisers to the RCA and the BHA, who have been advising an industry group on the response to the crisis, have also been consulted.
“The BHA took the decision to protect essential emergency services and the health and welfare of staff working in the racing industry.
“Racecourses and racing have obligations to ensure the safety of participants and provide medical cover which clearly cannot be fulfilled in these circumstances. This follows the new advice issued by government yesterday to combat the spread of the virus.”
Nick Rust, the chief executive of the BHA, said: “This is a national emergency the like of which most of us have never seen before.
“We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.
“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.
“There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.
“We are in constant contact with Government which understands the very significant consequences of this decision for jobs and businesses. We will work with them to do our best to manage the impact.
“Racing leaders will keep today’s decision under constant review and endeavour to keep all customers, participants, staff and dependent businesses informed as the situation progresses.”
Arena Racing Company’s chief executive Martin Cruddace believes the suspension of racing will have “huge ramifications” for the sport.
ARC owns 16 British racecourses, including Doncaster – home of the traditional Flat season curtain-raiser in the Lincoln – and Lingfield, which would have staged All-Weather Championships Finals Day on April 10.
Cruddace said:”We are obviously hugely disappointed to see racing suspended until at least the end of April, but the safety of all participants, as well as the wider society is paramount.
“Whilst we understand the decision, there is no doubt that the suspension of racing for this period, and possibly longer, will have huge ramifications for the entire ecosystem that racing supports and for the bookmaking industry also.
“We will now look to take every step to support our employees, the business and our partners in the betting industry in the short and long term, and make sure that we are ready to race again as soon as a fully analysed and risk assessed decision to do so is made.”
Horse Racing Ireland announced last Thursday that racing would take place behind closed doors in Ireland until March 29 – and two St Patrick’s Day fixtures at Down Royal and Wexford went ahead on Tuesday.
However, in light of the latest government advice, a decision on whether racing can continue in Ireland is set to be made on Wednesday.
Speaking after saddling a winner at Down Royal, Champion Hurdle-winning trainer Gavin Cromwell said: “We are hugely worried, but they are running a great show here.
“I’m definitely going to have to lay some staff off (if racing is shut down entirely). Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and hopefully we might keep going.
“Racing behind closed doors is working perfectly well. And for people stuck at home, it is some little bit of entertainment for them.”