National Hunt racing in Britain has been suspended until July 1, the British Horseracing Authority announced on Thursday.
The decision was made following an initial proposal from the National Trainers Federation, with the aim of providing clarity to trainers and owners of jump horses and to assist them in minimising any unnecessary expenditure. The Racehorse Owners Association, Professional Jockeys Association and Racecourse Association supported the move.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer of the BHA, said: “The decision to lose jump racing until July was not one which was taken lightly and we are very conscious of the impact this will have on many across our sport.
“We are working closely with the horsemen, racecourses and Levy Board to ensure the sport is ready for a resumption of racing at the earliest opportunity. Our planning is progressing well, and it is important that we keep everybody informed as it develops to help them with their own decision-making.
“The plan involves a phased return of racing, as well as increasing the jump programme in late summer and early autumn. With that in mind, we wanted to ensure that those who own or train jumps horses have a clear picture of how we are planning to proceed in the coming months.
“Additionally, we were keen to minimise the risk of any unnecessary expenditure by confirming that there will be no jump racing before July 1. This will allow horses to have breaks away from training yards is owners wish them to.”
Charlie Parker, a ROA Board member and representative on the Resumption of Racing Group, said: “The decision to delay the resumption of jump racing until July 1 will help bring clarity to those who were looking forward to seeing their horses run over the summer months.
“By taking this decision, owners and trainers can now plan with more certainty, albeit with the knowledge that it will be a phased return and therefore opportunities for horses to run will be limited initially.
“The ROA will continue to work with the Resumption of Racing Group to ensure that, when feasible, British racing is able to restart a race programme as soon as possible.”
Detailed proposals are currently being developed for a resumption of racing from May 1 if that is possible. If that is the case, racing will begin on the Flat and will be staged behind closed doors to minimise demands on emergency services.
The return of Flat racing is also likely to be phased with a limited number of fixtures in the initial weeks.
Aintree to honour NHS staff
Next year’s opening day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival will be rebranded by Aintree racecourse as Liverpool’s NHS Day in honour of the staff and volunteers across Merseyside working amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
In recognition of the hard work and commitment of carers who are providing support for vulnerable people in the community through this crisis, the Jockey Club will ensure professional carers from the social care sector will also benefit from the initiative.
The Jockey Club will donate 10,000 tickets to the NHS and social care sector in the region so they can attend the first day of the 2021 meeting.
Dickon White, Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses North West, said: “We’re delighted to donate 10,000 tickets to the NHS and professional carers across Merseyside. We’re also proud to re-name the first day of the 2021 Randox Health Grand National as Liverpool’s NHS Day in recognition of the amazing NHS staff and volunteers.
“We understand just how hard the NHS and professional carers are working right now and this is our way of showing our gratitude. The ticket process and distribution will begin at the start of next year and we’ll be working with the relevant organisations to ensure those who should benefit from the initiative are included.”
Jan Ledward, Chief Officer at NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, the organisation which plans NHS care for the city, added: “Across local health and care, staff are working tirelessly to keep services running and give people the care they need, often in the face of significant challenges.
“Whether in GP practices, hospitals, community and mental health services, care homes, social care – or the many other areas that make up our local system – teams are showing incredible resilience and dedication. We’re delighted to see this enormous effort recognised.”