Gosden gives full backing to racing resumption plans

Going to a racecourse will be safer than going to the supermarket, says champion trainer.

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John Gosden has every faith that being on a racecourse will prove to be a “great deal safer than going to the petrol station or the supermarket” should racing be able to resume as hoped on June 1.

Racing has been suspended in Britain since the fixtures at Wetherby and Taunton on March 17 – and on Monday the Government announced there would be no professional sport, even behind closed doors, in England until at least June 1, dashing hopes for a potential return this month.

The publication of the Government’s road map for exiting the lockdown, imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, set out the conditions under which various activities can be safely carried out.

Step two of the road map, which cannot begin any earlier than June 1, includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”. Racing’s industry leaders have outlined their commitment to plan for that date.

Asked if there was disappointment at the further delay or relief at a target date for resumption, Gosden told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gosden said: “The second – very much relief that we know where we are going. Step two said June 1, that sports can occur behind closed doors from that date onwards, and we can be absolutely ready. Our horses have been training throughout the spring in this lovely weather, they’re fit and ready to run.

“In Newmarket we have had 2,500 horses training every day, socially distanced, and the great thing about our sport is it’s non contact.”

An update from the Resumption of Racing Group last week said it had “demonstrated to Government the work being done to ensure a safe and responsible return to racing. This includes minimising risk to participants through detailed planning around strict social distancing and infection control measures.”

On the subject of how comfortable he would feel with his staff going racing, the champion trainer, whose string includes the brilliant Enable, said: “Very comfortable, because I’ve seen all the factors being put in and every restriction and I’d be very comfortable – I think it will be a great deal safer than going to the petrol station or the supermarket.

“There will be no crowds and who knows when that will occur, this is a disease that might rumble on. It’s not an easy one and we might be in this situation for months, we don’t know, but as long as we can race and do our bit for the economy – British racing and breeding does contribute £4billion to the economy every year, so it is a matter of doing it and doing it safely within the biosecurity guidelines.”

It was confirmed last month the intention remained for Royal Ascot to go ahead on its intended date – albeit behind closed doors – and Gosden believes it could still work well, particularly if the Guineas meeting can be held soon after the sport’s return.

He said: “It could be a fascinating Royal Ascot. If they run the Guineas at the end of the first week here in Newmarket, you could then come back with the big races at Royal Ascot, the St James’s Palace, and you could probably get a prep race in before the Ascot Gold Cup. I think it could be fascinating.

“Remember, they have been racing in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Florida throughout this pandemic under strict conditions behind closed doors, as we will.”

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