British Horseracing is gearing up for action to resume behind closed doors in the coming weeks with the BHA boss Nick Rust confident that racing can resume within one week of being given the all-clear. There has been no Horseracing in the UK since mid March, however approximately 12,000 racehorses throughout the UK have remained in exercise since then. Stable staff have been adhering to the required social distancing in order to minimise the risk of further spreading coronavirus with some stables stopping staff from using communal areas and sharing equipment.
Horseracing has been continuing behind closed doors in some other countries – most notably Hong Kong and Australia – and many trainers have been urging the governing body to push for a return to action.
Rust certainly doesn’t expect his industry to receive any special treatment amidst the current pandemic and he recognises that conditions may be different in other countries, however he believes that Horseracing can get back underway pretty quickly.
“We can be one of the first to go,” he said.
“We don’t want to make the case ahead of public opinion. We’re saying we’re ready when you’re ready, when the public health advice is ready.”
”The conditions are different in different places. People cite Hong Kong, that’s government-owned and all the horses are stabled right next to the racecourses.
“They’re able to make the case of continuing the economic activity. We have to try harder to make the case.
“But we don’t have Premier League footballers training for six weeks in our sport – our equine and human athletes are ready to go within a week to help bring live sport back.”
Horse trainers are dependant on owners paying fees to keep their horses and no other source of income will be forthcoming until racing resumes. There have been rumours that a restart could be in order for later this month, however there has as yet been no official announcement as yet and Rust has said that he won’t be too disappointed if the sport needs to wait a while longer.
“Our industry employs 20,000 people in rural economies, most of them just earning a basic living – of course we want some revenue to start flowing to make sure they’re looked after and they’re not a burden on the national purse,” he said.
“We have to keep working away with government and try to ensure we can bring racing back when it’s safe to do so.”
With regard to the Cheltenham Festival which took place in the days leading up to the lockdown, Rust maintains that the sport acted within the guidelines set out by the government at the time.
”That week Crufts took place indoors, millions of people still went on the Tube each day in London, Liverpool’s European football match took place,” he said.
“Goodness knows how difficult it is to manage the curve whilst trying to balance the public and economic situation.
“I’m sure the Government’s advisors will look back and there are some areas they would have done differently but all we could do genuinely was to keep in touch with Government all the way.”