Could Regional Horse Racing Offer a Way Out of the Coronavirus Pandemic


horse racing

Many sports are analysing the options in front of them regarding when and how they can begin again following the Coronavirus pandemic. Horse racing is one of those, and they have a potentially unique way to get the sport back up and running when the government say it is safe to do so.

Initially, horse racing was suspended until the 1st of May. On top of this, national hunt fixtures were suspended until July, so that if the industry could come back, flat racing would take priority as this is the season for flat, the jump trainers had been racing all winter.

Now we have a new announcement from the BHA. They have suspended racing until further notice but have said that as soon as the government tell them it is safe to resume, they have a plan ready to go almost immediately. The speculation for the past couple of weeks has been the idea of regional racing at hubs around the UK, which would eliminate almost every issue regarding the virus spreading.

What is the Regional Horse Racing Plan?

The idea is to completely scrap the current fixture list. Instead, the BHA would hold meetings at selected racetracks around the UK, with Lingfield, Newcastle and potentially Newmarket being involved although Hamilton and Wolverhampton have also been mentioned. The one thing needed at the track is a hotel that can be used to home those racing there.

The idea is to have local horses running at each one. A trainer or representative from the yard would stay at the on-site hotel, a number of experienced jockeys would also stay there. Horses would be shipped in and out of the track for racing to take place, so the only movement would be those, the actual personnel involved, trainers, jockeys, stewards and a few staff, would all remain in the hotel.

This would enable them to not have contact with the outside world, so they could race knowing it was a coronavirus free environment.

The schedule would consist of mainly handicaps, with a few races for two-year-olds and some listed races for the better horses at each yard. Each track would take its turn to host racing, more than likely on consecutive days. For example, we would have racing from Lingfield for four days, followed by racing from Newcastle for the next four days and go on like that, rotating the tracks that are involved.

If racing wants to get back to business as soon as possible then something like this, that limits people travelling, is the only option. Even if racing moved behind closed doors, staff are needed at each racecourse to make the meeting work, and jockeys and trainers would still have to move up and down the country.

With central hubs, that is no longer needed and that could be the key that is needed to unlock the situation. The BHA deserve credit for thinking outside of the box with this one, and hopefully, their time on this idea is worth it sometime in the near future.

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