As Britain’s various lockdown measures slowly relax, the thoughts of sports fans are turning to the return of their favoured pastimes.
One such activity is horse racing, which has often been touted alongside football and the Premier League as one of the first sports that could return post-lockdown.
The last meetings to take place in Britain were at Wetherby and Taunton on 17 March, both behind closed doors.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock – who represents racing hotbed Newmarket as MP for West Suffolk – has spoken positively about hopes the resumption of racing in Britain might not be too far away following its suspension.
Asked about calls to allow Premier League football to resume in June, Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m absolutely open to that. And horse racing too.
“I know that both the Premier League and racing are working on how this might be doable in a safe way. But that safety has to be paramount.”
Here’s everything you need to know::
When will horse racing return?
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) say that horse racing could be back on the table sooner rather than later.
“Racing’s industry leaders are now planning for racing to resume behind closed doors on 1 June,” they say.
However, they note that these plans “remain subject to agreement from government and an assessment by public health officials of the risks posed by the virus at that time.”
What might social distancing measures look like when horse racing returns?
When horse racing does make its return, it’s highly likely events and races will be held behind closed doors, meaning no fans will be in attendance.
Of course, there will still be some personelle staffing the facilities, as well as the jockeys, trainers and other key figures. So how will social distancing be enforced.
At the time of writing, the British Horseracing Authority are yet to publish their protocols for racing behind closed doors, something they are aiming to do “no later than 26 May”.
When it is published, the document will be feature “specific guidance for the racing industry to safeguard the health of employees and participants in a safe return to racing behind closed doors,” and “will be aimed at everyone attending race meetings, and their employers, who will all need to be aware of and ensure compliance with the new and revised protocols.”
How has Covid-19 affected horse racing?
Coronavirus is affecting everyone in different ways but horse racing stands alone in terms of welfare – as the animals, whom without there would be no industry, take priority.
Yet the challenges facing racing are not dissimilar to those of any business and its employees.
At the Moores’ Cisswood Stables in Lower Beeding near Horsham, work continues with the hope horses can return to racing soon.
Jockey Jamie Moore told the Chichester Observer: “We’ve still got to get the horses out and muck out, we’re keeping busy.
“It’s worrying for owners though, it’s a vicious circle. If owners lose money, the first thing to go is the horse – it’s a luxury. Whereas some people think ‘we can’t go on holiday this year’, some people think ‘I can’t have my horse any more’.”