Racehorse owners will be able to start attending meetings behind closed doors from Saturday under plans agreed by the Racecourse Association, Racehorse Owners Association and British Horseracing Authority.
Test fixtures will be held at Kempton and Southwell on Wednesday to pilot the new plans before the protocols are implemented as part of a wide rollout, which will start with Epsom’s bumper Saturday card featuring the Investec Oaks and Investec Derby.
The return of owners will follow new protocols and procedures, with a maximum of two owners or representatives per horse able to attend for their horse’s designated race, as well as having to pre-register ahead of meetings via the RCA’s Privilege Access Swipe System
Other measures include completing the BHA’s Covid-19 online learning module, a personal health assessment in advance of raceday, and a temperature check on arrival at a racecourse.
Owners are to arrive no earlier than 45 minutes before their first horse is due to run and must leave the racecourse within an hour of the final race in which they have a confirmed runner.
Dedicated owner zones will separate owners from trainers, stable staff, jockeys, officials and members of the media for infection control purposes and no movement will be permitted between the two areas.
Not all racecourses will be able to accommodate owners immediately as they may remain subject to local authority clearance and owners will be notified in advance if a racetrack is unable to accommodate them. Additionally, the protocols only apply to racecourses in England at this stage.
Monday’s announcement was praised by the ROA’s Chief Executive Charlie Liverton, who said: “It’s great to have owners back on the course and the team at the ROA for their hard work since the resumption of racing to put in place protocols for owners to attend.
“Owners contribute so much to this sport and it has been frustrating not to be on the track to see their horses run. Their patience and loyalty has been very much appreciated during this challenging period.
“There is still more work to do and we will continue to worth owners and racing’s stakeholders to get our sport back up and running in full with people across the UK able to enjoy a day’s racing on course when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
Dr Jerry Hill, the BHA’s Chief Medical Adviser, said: “As with our wider approach to resumption, the return of owners is predicated on a phased, risk-managed plan, which establishes infection control protocols that are essential for the safe continuation of racing during the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
“These include pre-entry screening for owners and segregated areas to facilitate social distancing at no closer than two metres – measures that prioritise the safety of our attendees, are consistent with government guidance for elite sports fixtures behind closed doors and are supported by the UK government.”