It’s expected to be finished by the middle of next month, but with trials needed before racing can resume, the July 12 meeting must be in doubt.
It’s not a return to the norm, but horse racing is scheduled to again feature on this country’s sports programme. June 8 has been earmarked for the first meeting, at Naas.
Twenty-one meetings, one, and sometimes two, go ahead each day, bar the 16th, next month. Four of them will cater for jumpers, and included on the Flat programme are three Classics, the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas along with the Derby.
All fine and dandy? Not really. The rules are stringent; no more than one or two of each runner’s connections can be present. Spectators won’t be allowed in, neither the bookies nor Tote will be operating, and as bookmaker offices throughout the country are still likely to have the shutters down, TV’s racing channels won’t have the usual captive audience and might not take in the action as it happens.
What the decision-makers are acknowledging is the importance racing holds, not primarily as a spectator sport, but as an industry. Like many others they wouldn’t have been impressed with the staging of this year’s Cheltenham meeting, attended by an estimated 20,000 from this country just as Covid-19 began to wage; but there’s more than racing to be considered.
The breeding element of the industry is huge, and for racing to be blanked could cause damage beyond total repair. There’s a comparison that can be made with what happened cross-Channel. When the Second World War was at its height racing continued in Britain, the Derby going ahead from 1940 to ’46 at Newmarket in a switch from Epsom. Looking back, that might seem unthinkable, but that’s what happened.
Closer to home, work is continuing on resurfacing Dundalk’s track. It’s expected to be finished by the middle of next month, but with trials needed before racing can resume, the July 12 meeting must be in doubt. And even if it can go ahead, it will be under the same restrictions applying next month. No fixture list has been published, but if previous year trends are maintained, the season will get off in earnest in late September.