Irish horse racing is set to return behind closed doors after the Irish government has finally given the green light. Even though it was expected to resume on the 29th of June 2020, the first race will take place on the 8th of June 2020. This is due to the great commitment of Horse Racing Ireland (HSI), the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, to ensure all safety measures imposed by the government and health authorities.
The news has come as a huge relief to those within the industry, which has already taken a substantial financial hit.
The races will have no audience, with only the key personnel necessary to run the fixture being present. Everyone involved, both staff and jockeys, will be subjected to temperature screenings and health surveys upon entry. All attendees will have to wear face masks or other types of face-covering and keep to social distancing. Safety measures will also be enforced by a dedicated COVID-19 protocol officer at each fixture.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the HSI expressed his relief as the industry supports 29,000 jobs in rural Ireland. He also explained how (luckily) the Irish racing industry already has some relevant experience with COVID-19 protocols as they safely ran ten meetings in March, all behind closed doors.