Two classics signal bumper return for UK horse racing

British racing is planning for a spectacular return with the Guineas meeting and Royal Ascot both scheduled to take place within a fortnight.

Matthew Crist

British racing could be in for a blockbuster return with the first two Classics of the season heralding an exciting resumption to the season under the latest provisional programme put forward by the British Horseracing Authority

Plans remain in place to stage the 2000 and 1000 Guineas on the first weekend in June while Royal Ascot is scheduled to take place in its usual slot between June 16th and 20th as the sport looks to return behind closed doors.

UK racing has been suspended since March 17th due to the coronavirus pandemic, but under plans for British horse racing’s return next month we could be in for a packed few weeks of flat racing action.

An eight-race opening fixture is planned for Newcastle’s all-weather track on June 1st which would kick-off a total of 18 meetings in the first eight days under plans set-out by The BHA.

This is the latest and most thorough plan for racing’s first days after the resumption and provides plenty of optimism for racing fans who have been starved of any action since meetings at Wetherby and Taunton were the last to take place before fixtures were initially suspended until the end of April and then indefinitely.

UK Horse Racing Newmarket

Hopes of a restart in May were dealt a blow following an announcement from the Government that there would be no professional sport, even behind closed doors, in England until at least June.

The plan for exiting the lockdown, imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, was published on May 14th, setting out the conditions under which various activities can be safely carried out.

Step two of the road map, which cannot begin any earlier than June 1, includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.

As a result, the BHA’s Flat Pattern Committee has published an update to the programme of Pattern and Listed races for the first seven days of June to reflect this new provisional timetable.

The plan remains to stage the 2000 and 1000 Guineas on June 6th and 7th respectively, with Royal Ascot on its scheduled dates from 16-20 June although, “some changes to the order of races” at the meeting are likely, details of which “will be confirmed as soon as possible”.

Newmarket Races Horse Racing

In addition, the Derby and Oaks will be scheduled for Saturday July 4th, with the Eclipse moved back a day to the Sunday (July 5th) with The BHA stating that “under these circumstances, the Eclipse would be restricted to four-years-old and upwards.”

The 10-furlong Classic Trial, the Snowdrop Stakes over a mile and the six-furlong Pavilion Stakes, which often serves as a trial for the Commonwealth Cup, will all be run between June 3rd and 4th under the revised timetable.

June 5th is also set to be a bumper day of action with the Lingfield Derby and Oaks Trials and Group One Coronation Cup programmed alongside the Abernant, Brigadier Gerard and Paradise Stakes.

The BHA added that Pattern and Listed races will now also be open to international runners meaning that competition is bound to be tough with limited field numbers due to social distancing measures.

However, international runners will not be permitted to take part in Group 2, 3 or Listed races taking place in Britain from  June 15th 2020 onwards, a step which has been taken to help address concerns that with a reduced fixture list in place, the number of eliminations is likely to be significant.

In a further step to accommodate greater numbers, particularly 2-year-old runners, The BHA has announced that 2yo races will be given first priority to divide, and expect that each will have two divisions, should sufficient demand exist.

Horse Racing Tips 3

In addition, they also state that: “at fixtures where stabling capacity allows, it is possible that races may divide more than once, provided the number of races each day does not exceed 10.”

The BHA reiterated that “the exact timetable for the resumption of racing will remain subject to agreement from Government and an assessment by public health officials of the risks posed by the virus at that time” and warned “any changes to the timetable are likely to have an impact on the programme for Pattern and Listed races.”

Meanwhile, to complete what could be a packed month of racing, Naas will host the resumption of Irish horse racing behind closed doors on June 8th.

The Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas will take place on the first weekend back at the Curragh on June 12th and 13th while the Irish Derby retains its traditional date on Saturday, June 27th, as does the Irish Oaks on Saturday, July 18th.

For the first three weeks, racing will be restricted to nine courses which are more centrally located to minimise travel distances and racecourses which have higher stable capacities have been selected given the requirement for one stable per horse under the new protocols.

Eight-race cards will be staged, where possible, to maximise opportunities for the horse population and limits will be decided on a racecourse by racecourse basis to accommodate each track’s social distancing requirements, with an initial general maximum limit of 18.

Proposed UK race meetings for first week of June

1 June: Newcastle

2 June: Kempton, Newcastle

3 June: Kempton, Great Yarmouth

4 June: Newcastle, Newmarket

5 June: Lingfield, Newmarket

6 June: Lingfield, Newcastle, Newmarket

7 June: Haydock, Lingfield, Newmarket

8 June: Chelmsford, Haydock, Lingfield

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