When they say there is, ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ it’s possible that owners could make a limited return to UK tracks from the end of March.
The British Horseracing Authority issued an update to owners and industry stakeholders on Monday morning, confirming that plans were under way for owners to be admitted to racecourses again from the 29th March, although further guidance is awaited in Wales.
The BHA stated that racing is “enormously grateful to owners for their patience, understanding and unwavering support” and their return will “mark a significant step in the move to normality – and will be welcomed by the entire industry”.
A “phased, risk-managed approach” will be employed, with owners being asked to follow the BHA’s Covid requirements and protocols, and the initial numbers will be controlled where facilities will also be limited.
The update read: “Unless agreed otherwise with local authorities, from 29th March to 12th April, access to the racecourse will be limited to a maximum of two owners per horse, as was the case initially when owners returned in July 2020.
“Racecourses are not able to provide hospitality at this stage, due to government restrictions, but light refreshments will be available and there will be no time limit on how long owners are able to remain on course.
“We aim to increase access to a maximum of six owners per horse from 12th April, following the further easing in government restrictions. At this point, racecourses will also be permitted to reintroduce outdoor hospitality.
“Specific arrangements remain subject not only to government guidance, but also local authority decision-making, and therefore conditions may vary according to racecourse area.
“Racecourse officials are currently liaising with their local authorities and will contact owners directly ahead of each fixture with further details of any local requirements.”
It is a welcome boost for moral as everyone has been in isolation since March last year. Cheltenham was held last week with the normally packed stands, hauntingly empty, as horse and jockey returned to the winners’ enclosure. With deafening roars of excitement and applause in previous years, it was reduced to an appreciated emotional applause from their colleagues. As Rachel Blackmore made history by lifting the coveted leading jockey award and numerous Irish success stories, there will be an eager momentum to get Ireland on track with vaccinations…fast.