Government go-ahead will signal a return to British racing next month

“We must emphasise that this provisional plan may still need to be adjusted according to when and under what circumstances racing is safely able to recommence,” was the announcement from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) only last week, following the news that horse racing would resume in the UK from June 1st – subject to government guidelines. 

With French Galop already re-commencing their racing season, following the coronavirus’ strict lockdown measures which put paid to any sporting events taking place around the world, and news from Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) that the season there will restart on June 8th at Naas, UK fans are hoping for something to look forward to, at the beginning of next month. 

After the jumps season was dramatically cut short, with the Cheltenham Festival (March 10-13th) the last major meeting of note, and the cancellation of the 2020 Grand National at Aintree, a return to normality is longed for by fans, punters and connections alike – and if the government gives the BHA the green light, it won’t be long before the latest odds are up on Betfair again, and we’re scrambling for the racecards in national newspapers.

All being well, racing will get back underway on June 1st at Newcastle, with just one meeting. This will then progress to two, and possibly even three meetings across the country (north, south and midlands) from June 6th. While there has been no confirmation yet as to which racecourses will hold meetings, it’s believed that as well as Newcastle, Chelmsford, Haydock, Kempton Park, Lingfield, Newmarket and Yarmouth will all be in contention. Ascot and Epsom are also scheduled to hold their prestigious meetings too. 

While it would be a return to racing with a whisper, rather than the famous roar which echoes around many racecourses up and down the country, there’s hope that the programme will be jam-packed full of racing highlights. The BHA had originally planned for a return to racing at the end of May, beginning with the trials to the Guineas. With that provisional date since scrapped, it’s straight to the Newmarket Classics at the beginning of June – the 2,000 Guineas scheduled for June 7th and the 1,000 Guineas just 24 hours later, and there’s the possibility of no prep run for the contenders of either race.

Royal Ascot is still pencilled in for its traditional dates of June 16-20th, albeit behind closed doors, meaning no royal attendance this year – the first time in Queen Elizabeth II’s 68-year reign. However, a BHA spokesperson announced: “There will be some changes to the order of races at Royal Ascot, which will be confirmed as soon as possible” – and much like racing in France and Ireland, it’s likely that the prize pot will be lower than previous years, due to the economic uncertainty at present.

Earlier in the month, Epsom was given the go-ahead to host their Classics: the Derby and the Oaks. It was a massive boost for the Surrey racecourse, with rumours that if the Jockey Club’s application had fallen through, due the security measures that needed to be put in place, the Festival would have had to be held elsewhere. Epsom has been home to the Derby since 1780, excluding both World Wars when it had to be run at Newmarket, and it’s considered the most prestigious of British racing’s five Classics. Both the Derby and the Oaks will be raced on the same day this year – July 4th – with a reduced Festival racecard.

While we await official confirmation from the British government and BHA, the scheduling of the updated fixture list is sure to excite fans who have been starved of sport these last couple of months. As they say, no news is good news.

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