BHA plan for racing to restart on Flat to limit demand on NHS

Horse racing chiefs plan to restart the sport with Flat meetings, to reduce the demand on the NHS and emergency services.

The British Horseracing Authority's operational plan has May 1 as the aim for races to return without obstacles, as incidents are less likely from a safety aspect.

The National Hunt season finished just days after the Cheltenham Festival, to protect vital services and the health of staff working in the industry during the coronavirus outbreak.

A short trial of meetings without spectators took place and this method is due to be implemented again during the restart.

The ten-page plan from the BHA, released yesterday, says: "We are already anticipating that the initial return to racing is likely to be phased and almost certainly behind closed doors.

"This reflects the likelihood that any easing of the Covid-19 situation, and any associated restrictions and pressures on medical services, will also happen progressively.

"With that in mind, we also expect any return to racing to begin, at least initially, with Flat racing, principally for reasons of safety and to minimise demands on emergency services.

"While every effort will be made to subsequently resume jumping at the earliest opportunity, possibly with the scheduling of some jumpers’ bumpers cards, it may assist jumps trainers to judge whether horses can/should be turned out or kept in training."

Over the next few weeks, BHA executives will make sure everything is in place for race meetings to resume, helping participants and making the most of financial support available.

The BHA has informed the government of the pandemic's economic impact on the sport.

It is estimated racing is worth an estimated £4.1 billion to the UK economy, employing around 20,000 people directly.

Although May 1 is the target to work towards, the BHA has said that is not set in stone.

"We cannot yet set out a timetable for resumption. No one can," the plan added.

"Our ability to keep resources in place, horses exercised and ready to return to action, will be tested. The industry’s leaders would like to give more certainty over dates, but it is too early to do at present."

The document details five different work streams to support racing through coronavirus; finance, people, equine health and welfare, resumption, and recovery.

Speaking on behalf of the group, a spokesman said: “The industry group is working hard to meet the needs of the racing industry in this period of great uncertainty.

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