BHA extends British racing suspension, targets May restart

16 April 2020

The British Horseracing Association (BHA) has extended the suspension of all British racing, but aims to resume activities next month.

Racing has been suspended since 18 March and had not been set to resume until the end of April, due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. However, with the UK still in lockdown and the government set to extend these measures for a further three weeks, the BHA has now said that racing will not resume this month.

Though the BHA did not set an exact date for ending the suspension, it said plans are in place so that racing can resume as soon as is possible and appropriate in consultation with government.

The BHA said it hopes to resume racing at some point in May, but only if this is possible and in line with government measures. The organisation said it would continue to work with trainers, racecourses and other participants to develop a phased plan for resumption.

Racing would likely take place behind closed doors until June at the earliest, with the BHA saying there is a “very strong likelihood” that the current restrictions on mass gatherings would remain in place. The BHA had initially floated the idea of holding races behind closed doors before the lockdown was announced.

For staff required to operate racing, the BHA said that it would implement “tough biosecurity measures” to help keep any health risks to a minimum.

“We stopped racing in March to protect the health and safety of the public and to limit demands on the NHS,” BHA chief executive Nick Rust said. “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.

“We’ll continue to develop a range of options drawing on the expertise of our participants and racecourses. But for now, we are all focused on supporting the national effort, maintaining social distancing restrictions and taking care of our people and our horses.”

The UK is not the only horse racing market to have been hit by the coronavirus, with Ireland, France and New Zealand among the other countries to have also stopped racing during the outbreak.