Owners set to return to racecourses from March 29

Owners are on course to make a limited return to the track from the end of March.

An update issued to owners and other industry stakeholders by the British Horseracing Authority on Monday morning confirmed planning is under way for owners to be admitted to racecourses again in England and Scotland on March 29, although further guidance is awaited in Wales.

The BHA underlined racing is “enormously grateful to owners for their patience, understanding and unwavering support” and their return will “mark a significant step in the move to normality – and will be welcomed by the entire industry”.

Owners and trainers watch from the bandstand at Kelso
Owners and trainers watch from the bandstand at Kelso (Ian Rutherford/PA)

A “phased, risk-managed approach” approach will be employed, with owners asked to follow the BHA’s Covid requirements and protocols, and initial numbers will be controlled with facilities also limited.

The update said: “Unless agreed otherwise with local authorities, from March 29 to April 12, access to the racecourse will be limited to a maximum of two owners per horse, as was the case initially when owners returned in July 2020.

“Racecourses are not able to provide hospitality at this stage, due to government restrictions, but light refreshments will be available and there will be no time limit on how long owners are able to remain on course.

“We aim to increase access to a maximum of six owners per horse from 12 April, following the further easing in government restrictions. At this point, racecourses will also be permitted to reintroduce outdoor hospitality.

“Specific arrangements remain subject not only to government guidance, but also local authority decision-making, and therefore conditions may vary according to racecourse area.

Ludlow was one of the first tracks to welcome back crowds in December
Ludlow was one of the first tracks to welcome back crowds in December (David Davies/PA)

“Racecourse officials are currently liaising with their local authorities and will contact owners directly ahead of each fixture with further details of any local requirements.”

Crowds have been largely absent since the fixture list resumed in the summer, following two months without any racing during the early stages of the pandemic.

Two pilot events did take place at Warwick and Doncaster, before a brief return of spectators in December until lockdown returned as coronavirus cases increased again.

Owners still able to attend meetings – but new restrictions from Thursday

Owners will still be able to attend race meetings in England when the new Government coronavirus lockdown comes into effect on Thursday – but numbers will be reduced and time on course restricted.

No more than two owners per horse will be able to attend, complying with the restriction that limits social mixing between households.

Time on course for owners will be limited as was the case when they returned to racecourses in July. They will be able to arrive 45 minutes before their horse runs and asked to make their way home as soon as they can after the race.

Racecourses will not be able to provide hospitality, in line with the Government’s decision to close hospitality settings including restaurants, cafes and bars.

Owners look at Eponina in the parade ring ahead at Leicester
Owners look at Eponina in the parade ring ahead at Leicester (Tim Goode/PA)

A statement from racing industry leaders said: “These restrictions will be in place for the duration of the national lockdown in England, which is due to finish on December 2. Different rules are in place in Scotland and Wales, and owners should check the position with the relevant racecourse.

“The decision to allow racing to continue behind closed doors in England – with a limited number of owners attending – recognises racing’s status as an elite sport. Racing’s participants and owners have acted with great responsibility and professionalism since the sport resumed on June 1. Strict controls have been in place and there is no evidence that the virus has been transmitted at a meeting behind closed doors.

“Owners and participants attending meetings during the national lockdown will be expected to adhere to Government’s travel guidance, and should travel directly to and from the venue without stopping where possible, and avoid car sharing with anyone outside their own household or support bubble.

“Continued observance of these measures is vital to ensure that the sport continues behind closed doors.”

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.”