Two bumper weekends of Classic trials could take place at the end of May under the “best-case scenario” planning for the resumption of racing.
The British Horseracing Authority has been developing a provisional fixture list to ensure the sport is ready to restart “at the earliest appropriate opportunity” after being put hold since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That proposed fixture list will begin to be published next week, with a sub-group of the Flat Pattern Committee helping to prepare a Pattern and Listed programme, prioritising the Classics and “other flagship races for horses most likely to provide a future fundamental role on behalf of the breed”.
The BHA is hoping to stage a number of Pattern and Listed events that were lost in the spring during the second half of May and early June if possible, although it is underlined this would only happen if “the timeline and circumstances of recommencement allow”.
Under the proposed schedule, the second to last weekend of May would see 1000 and 2000 Guineas trials, with the Nell Gwyn, Fred Darling, Greenham and Craven Stakes all slated to take place along with the Pavilion Stakes, which is a prep event for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
It is the intention to split those Classic trials over the two days of that weekend, with the Fred Darling increased in distance to a mile this year.
Older horses would have their chance with the Brigadier Gerard, Sagaro, Pinnacle and Aston Park Stakes – all Group Three contests – also on the cards.
The Group One Lockinge is set to be the main event on the final weekend of May, with the Dante and Musidora – traditional Derby and Oaks trials – due to be run alongside the Yorkshire Cup.
Group Three heats in the Palace House Stakes, which would be run over five and a half furlongs, and the Spring Trophy feature, as does the Group Two Middleton Stakes.
The provisional plan for the first weekend of June would see the 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place, with the Group One Coronation Cup, which is usually one of the highlights of the Derby meeting, also on the agenda.
Under the “best-case scenario planning”, Royal Ascot is still scheduled to take place in its existing slot, beginning on June 16, with the Derby and the Oaks held in early July.
The rescheduled races may have to be moved from their traditional venues, which would be “dependent on wider circumstances, the available fixtures and the public health guidance in place at the time”, and are likely to be restricted to British-trained runners, until at least May 30.
That policy would be in line with a similar approach taken by other international racing jurisdictions, with France not allowing foreign runners until June 1 and Germany not until until May 31.
The BHA has made it clear racing will only resume when given the go-ahead by Government, and the FPC update added it “must emphasise that this provisional plan is based on our best-case scenario and may need to be adjusted according to when and under what circumstances racing is safely able to recommence”.
As part of planning for the resumption of racing, BHA chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill, along with representatives from other sports, met with representatives from Public Health England on Friday to discuss the safe return of top-level action.
The meeting was led by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and a spokesperson said: “We held an initial, constructive meeting with medical representatives from a number of professional and elite sports bodies, government and PHE to step up planning on what may need to be done so that athletes could return to training, when it is deemed safe to do so.
“This would be ahead of any return to competitive top-level sport which would only happen when medical experts advise that this can be done safely.
“Discussions with the sports bodies will continue on this.”