08 Aug 2022

Horse Racing Ireland welcomes confirmation of behind closed doors return

Horse Racing Ireland welcomes confirmation of behind closed doors return

Horse Racing Ireland today welcomed the confirmation from the Government that race fixtures in Ireland can resume behind closed doors on June 8.

A statement from HRI details that only key personnel necessary to run the fixture will be permitted to be on site where they will be subject to strict Covid-19 protocols. All those in attendance will be subject to health surveying in advance and thermal temperature screening on entry.

“We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way,” said Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland.

“We know from our own experience in March when we safely ran ten meetings behind closed doors – and from what is happening in other countries like France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and America – that racing can be staged safely within the requirements of social distancing.

“With significant input from the IHRB’s chief medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh, we have strengthened the HRI Covid-19 protocols and so, while race fixtures will return in Ireland on June 8, they will be very different from what people will have experienced before.”

Among the new protocols that will be enforced when fixtures restart behind closed doors in Ireland are:

1. Only key personnel will be permitted to attend race fixtures

2. All attendees will be subject to health screening in advance and thermal temperature screening on arrival – anyone presenting with elevated temperatures will be denied access and instructed to consult with their GP

3. Mandatory wearing of face coverings for many attendees including jockeys, stalls handlers, medical professionals, security staff, those working inside etc

4. Social distancing will be strictly enforced by a dedicated Covid-19 protocol officer at each fixture

Kavanagh continued to say that, “We will publish our full protocols tomorrow and will require any key personnel necessary to run a race fixture to read the document in full. There must be full compliance with these protocols and to assist the industry in becoming familiar with the changed workplace, a series of webinars on the Covid 19 Protocols will be announced next week.

“On Sunday we will release a revised fixture list up to the end of June, including confirmation on when the Classics, traditionally scheduled for this time of year, will be run.”

Racing restarted behind closed doors in Germany on May 7 and in France on May 11, while in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong the industry continued operating behind closed doors. In Britain, the British Horseracing Authority plans to resume racing on June 1.

“I would like to acknowledge the constructive engagement with the Government throughout the consultative process through the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed and his officials. It was reassuring that the importance of horse racing as an industry was fully appreciated. The industry supports 29,000 jobs in rural Ireland, and we are the third largest producer, and largest exporter, of thoroughbreds in the world, all of which depends on racing taking place on track,” added Kavanagh.

“The decision to allow racing to resume behind closed doors will be welcomed within the industry. For Flat racing in-particular, but also for a significant portion of the National Hunt population, there is a seasonal and cyclical nature to the industry and these are key months in the trade and export of horses with proven form on the race track, as well as a vital period in the sales season.

“These will not be race meetings as you might traditionally imagine them, rather stripped back events which will determine the best horses in various categories, a vital factor for the breeding industry. Attendance will be kept to an absolute minimum and Covid-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.”

Kildare South TD Martin Heydon welcomed the news. 

“While there have been great sacrifices made by those in the racing industry and many other sectors of the economy, those sacrifices have been necessary as part of overall public health measures.

“I also understand the really significant impact these sacrifices have had not just on the horse racing sector, trainers, owners, jockeys and racecourses but the knock-on implications for the horse sales and breeding sectors as well. 

“That is why I fought for an earlier resumption date for horse racing than phase 3 on June 29th. Such a delay for us while racing resumed in France already and the UK in early June would have been devastating for the racing and breeding sector here that employs over 29,000 people, with most of those jobs in rural Ireland and many of them in Kildare.

“While I know many in the industry would have wished for an even earlier date for resumption, the clarity around today’s decision by Cabinet allows all in the industry to now plan for a safe resumption of racing with more certainty."

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