As much of the UK prepares for stage one of Boris Johnson's 'roadmap' out of the third coronavirus lockdown, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced its plans for owners in England and Scotland to be allowed to return to the racecourse from Monday, March 29.
The latest national lockdown came into force on Jan. 4 following severe restrictions for most of the country over the Christmas period. While elite sport was allowed to continue, racing has again operated behind closed doors with only essential personnel present on the racecourse.
A statement released by the BHA on Monday read, “British racing is enormously grateful to owners for their patience, understanding and unwavering support. Your return to the racecourse will mark a significant step in the move to normality – and will be welcomed by the entire industry.
“Under current plans, owners—as key investors in British racing—will be able to attend race meetings in England and Scotland from Monday, as part of a phased, risk-managed approach, which corresponds as closely as possible to the respective government timetables.
“Like other elite sport, racing continues to operate behind closed doors, with strict infection control measures in place to reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted on course. Therefore, owners will be asked to follow the BHA's COVID-19 requirements and the specific Owner Protocols.”
For the time being, access will be for a maximum of two owners per horse, until at least the next phase of lockdown easing, which is set to commence on April 12. It is hoped that the limit will be increased to six owners per runner from then when racecourses will be able to reintroduce outdoor hospitality.
Owners will receive an email from the course once their horse has been entered to run. Those wishing to attend the races will be required to pre-register. The Racecourse Association has devised a guide for owners outlining important information on returning to the racecourse.
With lockdown restrictions varying slightly between the devolved administrations within the UK, racecourses in Wales are still awaiting guidance on the return of owners from the Welsh government.
The British turf season gets underway at Doncaster on Saturday.