Racing action confined to the home straight after travel ban announced

‘Once in a generation occurrence’ will be in place until the new year

The Christmas racing action will be “domestic only” after movement of horses and jockeys across the Irish Sea was ruled out until the new year.

In a move described as a “once in a generation occurrence”, Horse Racing Ireland announced on Tuesday that no Irish-trained horses or Irish-based jockeys should go to the UK to compete between now and December 31st.

The sport’s ruling body also said declarations for British-based horses to race in Ireland during this time won’t be accepted. They advised no UK horses or jockeys should travel here.

It comes on the back of the Government’s confirmation that the ban on movement from Britain to Ireland has been extended to the end of the month due to coronavirus.

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“The concern from Government is very clear: these are exceptional times and a travel ban with the UK is a once-in-a-generation occurrence,” a HRI statement said.

“Irish racing has followed Government advice at all times during Covid-19 and will continue to do so.

“In that regard we are advising that no Irish-trained horses or jockeys should travel to the UK for competition between now and December 31st, and no UK horses or jockeys should travel in the opposite direction.”

Looking ahead to the new year, the body's chief executive, Brian Kavanagh, later said: "It is an unprecedented travel ban for all but essential supply purposes and that's clearly not long-term sustainable.

“So you would have to hope it is short-term. But we are in unprecedented times at the moment. It means domestic-only action at Leopardstown and Limerick this Christmas.”

The move means the Henry de Bromhead trained Monalee cannot line up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.

Another De Bromhead star, Put The Kettle On, had also been due to travel to Kempton for Sunday’s Desert Orchid Chase.

Both horses hold alternative entries at Leopardstown’s four-day festival starting on St Stephen’s Day.

“Obviously it is disappointing but that’s just the way the cards have fallen and that’s the way it is,” said De Bromhead.

“I don’t know whether they’ll go to Leopardstown or not – we haven’t made any plans yet. They both have options, so we’ll speak to their owners and decide after that.”

The ban also rules out the Denis Hogan-trained Moyheena from Sunday’s Welsh Grand National at Chepstow. She was the sole Irish-trained entry left in the marathon contest.

A number of cross-channel trained horses had been entered for races at Leopardstown including the Olly Murphy handled Thomas Darby for a Grade One at Leopardstown on Sunday.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Lock’s Corner had also been among the market leaders for Sunday’s €150,000 Paddy Power Chase at the Dublin track.

Powers announced they will void bets on affected runners in their respective races as a “justice refund”.

Tuesday’s Government announcement confirmed that racing can continue behind closed doors despite more severe coronavirus restrictions being imposed in the face of a spike in the virus.

The Christmas racing programmes at Leopardstown and Limerick are normally among the best attended fixtures of the year.

Over 57,000 people attended Leopardstown’s four days last Christmas. Almost 41,000 officially attended the four days at Limerick in 2019.