Irish racing will not restrict jockeys when sport resumes

Races in Britain will be restricted to the most experienced jockeys

There are no plans for Irish racing to replicate proposals in Britain where races are to be restricted to senior jockeys in the event of any resumption of the sport.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has issued guidelines for a possible restart that initially include field-sizes of no more than 12 runners with only more experienced jockeys taking part.

A BHA email to trainers in Britain said a ‘risk-mitigation’ policy is being adopted and added that analysis from its medical department indicated that more experienced riders are less likely to suffer injuries.

There has been no racing in Britain since March 17th due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the sport stopped in Ireland a week later. Both jurisdictions are avoiding setting a date for any resumption although plans are in place in France and Germany to resume in May behind closed doors.


Horse Racing Ireland has plans to resume with a month of Flat racing once given a green light by Government. But the Irish Jockeys’ Association (IJA) has confirmed that similar restrictions to Britain won’t apply here.

"We will look at all protocols as to how we can ensure a safe environment for anyone who finds themselves in a race-day scenario," IJA secretary, Andew Coonan, said on Friday

“But that doesn’t include restricting races to senior riders only, or to a reduced number of races or riders.

“What needs to be remembered is we had a 10-day racing scenario [behind closed doors before shutdown] out of which there was no evidence to suggest that Covid was in anyway spread. In fact it proved to be a very successful trial.”

He added that the jockeys’ body was involved in lots of background work relating to the sport being ‘racing ready’ when permission to resume racing is granted by the Government. That includes trying to bolster protocols that were employed when racing took place behind closed doors last month.

Coonan said that jockeys under both codes are now much better placed to maintain fitness levels in these unprecedented circumstances, including maintaining weight, than they would have been in the past.

“Race riding is hugely important in terms of overall fitness. Nothing beats race riding. However we have thankfully, and without thinking this day would ever come, put some very good frameworks in place for riders in terms of their physical fitness.

“The professional rider of today is significantly different in terms of how he approaches a racing scenario from a rider even 10 years ago.

“We have very young kids up to senior riders and we have not just got physical and mental training regimes for them.

“There is an array of other facilities that ensure riders are at their optimum on a horse without being dependant on race-riding itself to bring themselves to that level.”

In other news Horse Racing Ireland has said it isn’t ruling out taking measures to ensure animal welfare standards are met during the Covid-19 emergency but added that it isn’t an issue right now.

Fears have been expressed that the longer that racing is cancelled, and in an exceptional economic climate, the more chance there is of owners not being able to afford to keep horses in training.

HRI has said animals are ultimately the responsibility of their owners but acknowledged that these are unprecedented circumstances.

"We've been stressing to owners and trainers to try and encourage them to keep horses in training from a welfare point of view as much as anything," said HRI's chief executive Brian Kavanagh.

“The longer the shutdown goes on the less sustainable it is for owners to keep horses in training for races that are not happening.

He stressed, though, that owners defaulting on debts and leaving horses with trainers is not currently a problem as many jump horses are let off for the summer and Flat racing is widely expected to resume behind closed doors in the coming weeks.

“Clearly these are exceptional circumstances and you would have to see what way we can assist, whether it’s finance, information or whatever. But it’s not an issue at this point,” Kavanagh added.