Major UK, US races put on hold as horse racing deals with coronavirus threat

Horse racing status during 2020 coronavirus

The Dubai World Cup has joined the Kentucky Derby and Grand National as the highest-profile horse races put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dubai World Cup meeting is the richest in racing with $US35 million in prizemoney, with the jewel in the crown the $US12 million Dubai World Cup.

“To safeguard the health of all participants, the higher organising committee of the Dubai World Cup 2020 has decided to postpone the 25th edition of the global tournament to next year,” a statement from the Dubai government’s media office said.

As big-ticket sports worldwide have been postponed and cancelled racing is continuing in some countries, though in many jurisdictions it is being conducted in racecourses containing only jockeys and trainers and other key operational personnel.

More: Global guide to horse racing

Several countries have now acted to stop racing altogether for a period as authorities battle to stop the spread of the pandemic.

The WGL has checked the state of play at some of the major racing centres worldwide to update horse racing punters on the latest news.

We will endeavor to update the list with the latest developments as things change.

Britain racing called off

The British Horseracing Authority has halted all racing until the end of April, which includes the Grand National Festival at Aintree.  Considered the world’s greatest steeplechase race and the biggest betting event on the British calendar, the meeting was due to be held April 2-4. Ireland and Scotland had already closed race meetings to the public.

Australian horse racing continues, but for how long?

Racing in Australia continues with no fans allowed on course. Some of the country’s richest races are due to be run in March and April in Sydney, including The Championships at Randwick.

Stewards, trainers, jockeys, handlers, vets and farriers are allowed on course along with some media, while minimum weights for jockeys in Victoria and NSW have been raised to ensure riders are at their peak physically to combat potential illness.

In Victoria, a group of 25 top jockeys will ride on race days only and won’t ride in barrier trials and trackwork.

The group will be segregated from fellow jockeys and travel to meetings with other riders in the group of 25 as Racing Victoria attempts to keep a pool of jockey free from the virus to keep racing in the state running.

Hong Kong racing to carry on amid coronavirus threat

Hong Kong has raced behind closed doors since late February, with no members of the public on course, and seems the most likely of the world’s racing venue to be able to continue through the crisis. It uses only two tracks, Sha Tin and Happy Valley, and all its horses are trained in one place, with jockeys and trainers also living in the Sha Tin complex, which boasted strict security even before the spread of coronavirus. There are generally two meetings a week. Read our guide to Hong Kong racing.

United States racing continues, but Kentucky Derby postponed

The Kentucky Derby will not be run on the first Saturday in May for the first time since 1945. The Run for the Roses has been postponed until September 5, with the organisers confident its unbroken streak of the race being run 145 years in a row will extend to 146. Horse racing is continuing all around the United States without non-essential  personnel being allowed on track.

Dubai World Cup postponed

The rich Dubai World Cup was due to go ahead ‘’with no paying spectators’’ on March 28. Racing in the UAE has continued with no fans on course throughout March.

But given the growing COVID-19 pandemic the decision was made to postpone the World Cup meeting, one of the biggest sporting events on the country’s calendar.

Japan thoroughbreds continue behind closed doors

Racing is continuing behind closed doors in Japan, which boasts one of the strongest thoroughbred breeding programs in world racing. Several gallopers were due to head to Australia to tackle some of the big races during The Championships, but travel plans for all but  Danon Premium have been abandoned.

Ireland calls off racing until April 19

Racing in Ireland had been conducted behind closed doors in recent weeks, but the board of Horse Racing Ireland on March 24 called a halt to the action until April 19 at the earliest.

Irish racing had attracted enormous turnover with racing in the UK stopped a few weeks earlier, but the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Tuesday all sporting events in the Republic of Ireland would be cancelled. The biggest Irish racing event under a cloud so far is the Irish Grand National on April 13.

France makes tough call to delay racing until April

Gallops and harness racing in France have been shut down until at least April 15, with several big races scrapped. France Galop had made the decision three days earlier to race behind closed doors but then decided to follow Italy, the Eurpean epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Belgium in putting racing on hold altogether.

South African horse racing joins list of those on hold

South Africa is another nation that had been conducting  its racing behind closed doors during the global coronavirus pandemic.   South African horse racing is exceptionally popular, with many legal ZA betting sites offering odds and promotions surrounding it. But South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced on March 23 that the country would go into lockdown. The last meeting before racing was suspended was at Vaal on Thursday, March 26.

New Zealand racing closed for a month

NZ Thoroughbred Racing  made the call on March 23 to close down all racing in New Zealand for at least a month.

Racing in New Zealand had been continuing with only essential racing people at the tracks. All allocated weights had been raised by two kilograms in an attempt to protect jockey health, but with the country moving to a higher level of restrictions in an attempt to contain the coronavirus the decision was taken to put racing on hold.

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