After almost a week of speculation and underlying hope that the date for the resumption of horse racing would be brought forward from June 29, the situation remains unchanged – for now, at least.
That was the crux of a statement from HRI on Thursday evening, which confirmed that work is “ongoing with government officials around an appropriate date for the resumption of racing in Ireland”.
The only confirmation is that the June 29 date, which was set out in Leo Varadkar’s address to the nation on Friday last as the point of return for sports “behind closed doors”, did indeed include horse racing, something which has been assumed but not confirmed since the speech was given.
There has been much speculation since the government’s roadmap was released that horse racing, having successfully run behind closed doors prior to the nation’s lockdown, would be first in line to make a return. As it stands, that is not the case, but talks will continue as the government is willing to “examine proposals from sectors of the economy wishing to have restrictions lifted earlier than scheduled”.
Of course, all changes are based on the future trends of the Covid-19 virus and could result in them being pushed forward or backward.
Making first response to clarify what has been a difficult situation for all within the horse racing industry, HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: “Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish racing community are fully supportive of the Government and the Chief Medical Officer for the way in which they have handled this unprecedented public health emergency.
“Through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine there has been constructive engagement with various Government departments this week on the basis that racing will only resume behind closed doors when it is deemed safe and appropriate.
“Prior to March 24, race fixtures were among the last group of Tier 2 commercial activities to continue with ten fixtures staged safely behind closed doors with only key personnel permitted on site.
“Horse Racing Ireland’s Covid-19 protocols which were in place for those fixtures have been further strengthened in the meantime and we feel that the industry can safely resume sooner rather than later and will continue to engage with Government on that basis.”