Last week’s Cheltenham Festival received a lot of flak in the media after allowing more than 200,000 live spectators at the event despite coronavirus fears. The uproar triggered a swift response by the British Horseracing Authority, which announced a ban to live spectators and racing under stricter conditions.
This essentially means that all races in the UK are to take place behind closed doors. The Taunton and Wetherby events tomorrow are the first in England to take place behind closed doors. Today’s event in Kelso is following Scottish government advice and prohibited spectators as well.
The biggest concern for racing officials and the tripartite leadership is the wellbeing of jockeys and all parties involved in racing. If by any chance a single case of COVID-19 is identified during any of the upcoming events, it can trigger a widespread cancellation of all events around the UK.
With The Grand National less than three weeks away, the goal is to keep events running smoothly and behind closed doors to prove that the industry has a firm and stable plan to deal with all contingencies.
“Racing has worked hard to look after our customers and our staff by following the government’s guidance and taking proportionate action. We will agree plans to limit attendance to participants and staff only at race meetings from this week and put in place the contingency plans developed by the industry.” – Nick Rust, BHA
If everything goes according to plan, we are likely going to miss out on the live-action and fresh air aspects of the sport, but we will still enjoy Horse Racing unhindered. If absolutely nothing goes to plan, alternatives like virtual horse racing will be our only getaway.
Horse Racing around the world
Horse Racing Ireland has also announced a closed-door racing strategy to be put in place until at least the 29th of March. Similar decisions have been put in place in France, Hong Kong, Japan, and Dubai.
The Dubai World Cup supporting events have also been canceled. The Post-Position Draw, Breakfast with the Stars and even the Welcome Reception have all been canceled. The Main Event will still go through without spectators but will be televised live. This comes after a decision for the closure of all museums, historical sites, public libraries, gyms, cinemas and spring camps in the Emirates to curb the threat of the coronavirus.
As of now, most racing events are still on schedule, but with severe limitations. The situation is evolving day to day however, as horse racing might fall victim next and join the football and basketball leagues around the planet.
The final recourse is alternatively the virtual sport betting version of each of our beloved sports. We will keep you updated regularly as the situation evolves and new information is available.