HRI separating up teams of officials to keep meetings going behind closed doors

Racing will continue in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day with meetings at Down Royal and Wexford

Some of racing’s essential service providers are being broken up into teams in ongoing attempts to ensure the sport keeps going despite the threat of coronavirus.

A policy of racing behind closed doors began on Friday evening at Dundalk and continued through the weekend at Navan on Saturday and Limerick on Sunday.

With those arrangements in place Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) confirmed it is looking at further contingency plans should restrictions need to be put in place due to people testing positive for Covid-19.

"We've done what we can in certain areas. There are separate teams working for Iris [Irish Racecourse Integrity Services], Racing TV, stalls handlers and for the Turf Club so all the eggs aren't in one basket with those people," said HRI's top official, Brian Kavanagh, on Sunday.


However, he admitted it’s unclear what might occur should infections occur among a particular group of racing professionals such as jockeys and what any impact of that might be.

“It’s the normal advice to everybody, including jockeys; if they’re showing symptoms, or feeling any symptoms, to stay away and get checked.

“There’s less scope to do that [separate key personnel] with a smaller pool of jockeys. It’s on our mind but there are no obvious solutions either,” Kavanagh said.

Planning for the outbreak of infections in yards, and any potential impact on racing, is also an issue.

“You’re asking if a trainer’s employee, or someone in the family of a trainer, tests positive what implications would that have. The difficulty is that horses need to be exercised daily anyway, so the idea of shutting up shop for trainers is not straightforward,” Kavanagh said.

“It’s not so much stable lockdown as personnel lockdown, although lockdown is probably not the right word. What we’re saying is anyone who tests positive needs to take all precautions and procedures the HSE are recommending,” he added.

Racing will continue in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day with meetings at Down Royal and Wexford. The next fixtures after that is Dundalk on Friday with the new flat season on turf due to begin at Naas on Sunday.

Measures in relation to sanitation and social distancing are in place on the ground for racing to take place behind closed doors and there has been broad industry support for the move.

After riding at Dundalk on Friday, classic winning jockey Wayne Lordan commented: "At least we are racing and people are working and making some money. The show must go on."

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column