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Racing to continue behind closed doors in Ireland

Racing in Ireland will continue behind closed doors following an extension of coronavirus restrictions announced by the Irish Government on Wednesday.

The Irish Government website confirmed professional, elite sports, horse racing, greyhound racing and approved equestrian events only are permitted to continue behind closed doors. No other matches or events are to take place.

Racing has been staged without spectators since it returned in Ireland on June 8 following the Covid-19 lockdown, with limited numbers of owners making only a brief return to the course in September before they were again excluded under strict protocols.

Meanwhile, it has been agreed that the ban on UK travel should continue until midnight on Friday evening. Trainer Gordon Elliott has two horses – Quilixios and Duffle Coat – entered for the Grade One Finale Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday.

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From Saturday, all passengers coming from the UK will be required to possess a negative PCR test acquired within 72 hours of travelling.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: “They will have to present that negative test at the border management unit at an airport or at the ferry terminal.

“Failure to do so will be subject to either a fine of 2,500 euros or up to six months imprisonment penal provision, to make sure we get compliance.”

The provision is certain to remain in place until at least January 31, he said.

He added: “We expect other countries to be doing something similar and we’ll work in co-operation with other countries, and with the European Commission, to monitor and manage how this affects individuals.

“The cabinet’s agreed provisionally to apply the same measures to other jurisdictions, other red-list countries.

“We will work first of all introduce to the UK provisions, and we will work in the next week with European Commission and others, people involved in the travel industry, in terms of how we broaden and apply the same measures too from other jurisdictions.”

Jockey Robbie Power has clarified his riding plans during the current situation, announcing on his Twitter feed that he will stay in Ireland rather than travelling to Britain – including to partner horses trained by Colin Tizzard, as he has for much of the season so far.

He wrote: “Due to the increased number of covid 19 cases in Ireland and the UK and the uncertainty over travel restrictions I have decided to stay in Ireland with my family until restrictions ease.

“I’ve been in quarantine since the 1st of January and look forward to getting back riding on both sides of the Irish Sea as soon as restrictions allow.”

Owners to return to Irish tracks from Monday

Horse Racing Ireland has announced owners can return to the track from Monday.

In line with new Irish Government guidelines which now permit racing and other outdoor sports to have a limited number of spectators, owners can now be welcomed back.

HRI had previously stated owners were among their top priorities as the industry attempts to return to some sense of normality and from Monday two people per horse will be allowed.

Pre-meeting health screening and temperature checks will be required.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “We are delighted to confirm that for the first time since March 13, owners will be permitted to return to the racecourse from Monday next.

“Owners play the most important role in Irish racing and they have had to wait quite some time to return to the racecourse to see their horses run.

“We have always said that getting owners back on the racecourse was our first priority and we have been working closely on this with the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners and their representative Caren Walsh.

“As all key personnel who have been racing behind closed doors since June 8 will testify, these are not race fixtures as we used to know them, and given the ongoing public health risk, it remains as important now as it ever has been, that all those attending racecourses adhere strictly to the race day protocols.

“Since we resumed racing in Ireland, the level of care and compliance with the Covid-19 protocols has been excellent and it is vital that everybody continues to comply with the rules on the racecourse around pre-health screening, social distancing and the wearing of face masks or coverings at all times.”