BHA chief executive Nick Rust.
  • Racing’s lockdown indefinite due to COVID-19
  • Quote: ‘The government knows we are not just a sport. It knows we are an industry with 14,000 horses. Staff can’t look after horses if they’re furloughed’

By Andrew Atkinson

Racing’s lockdown faces an indefinite period, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having been postponed since March 18, with hopes to return on May 1 thwarted.

“It’s right to continue this suspension – until the pressure on the NHS allows for a resumption – and we can assure the safety of those taking part,” said BHA chief executive Nick Rust.

“We are in touch with government as part of our development of a responsible, co-ordinated plan for the return of sport when it’s appropriate to do so.

“We’ll continue to develop a range of options, drawing on the expertise of our participants and racecourses.

“For now, we are all focused on supporting the national effort, maintaining social distancing restrictions and taking care of our people and our horses.”

With racing amongst sports, including football, facing huge financial losses, putting thousands of jobs at risk, the world awaits the easing of restrictions in place as coronavirus sweeps across the country.

“When we have the right conditions then we will be able to resume racing in as good a form as we can, which will be behind closed doors.

“It will mean social distancing and restrictions on track and where we can race. We have planned a number of scenarios so we are ready to go.

“Sport has to listen to what the government is advising us to follow, but we are talking to the government every day and making the point that when conditions allow, we are able to resume economic activity.

“We didn’t want to put a date on it to give false hope or to mislead, but we are saying to the industry that we will be ready to come back as soon as those conditions are satisfied.

“The government knows we are not just a sport and it is aware of that. It knows that we are an industry with 14,000 horses that need looking after and that staff can’t look after horses if they’re furloughed.

“So our industry is bearing a huge cost to keep maintaining the standards we expect and the industry is doing a tremendous job of keeping going at this time.

“The sport is ready to return under all circumstances, once it is safe to do so,” said Rust.

The BHA will continue liaison with the government and have not ruled out resuming later in May – behind closed doors.

Racing was postponed in March, to protect the health and safety of the public, and to limit demands on the NHS.

Speaking on Sky Sports Racing Rust said: “People have talked about £125 million being available to the sport, through the Levy Board and Racing Foundation.

“The Levy has £45m at the moment and we need to use that carefully for the return of racing. The Racing Foundation will do its best to support welfare in the meantime.”

Trainers, who have received a letter from the BHA – as British racing faces losing a reported estimated £193 million – are not surprised the suspension is extended.

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