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Coronavirus latest: Racing to continue behind closed doors in Ireland after crunch talks

RACING in Ireland will continue behind closed doors, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) have announced.

The HRI board had crunch talks this afternoon to assess the last five days of racing and to decide whether the sport could continue.

Racing in Ireland will continue behind closed doors

And in a big boost to the industry, they gave racing the green light in an attempt to protect livelihoods.

In a statement, the HRI said: “A meeting of the Board of Horse Racing Ireland agreed this afternoon that race meetings in Ireland would continue to be held in strict adherence to Government guidelines regarding Covid-19 and staged without members of the general public.

“This decision is motivated by the need to maintain employment and incomes for people working in the industry, and on the basis of being able to achieve and maintain all HSE advice and instructions.

“Since last Friday, five race meetings in Ireland have been held behind closed doors with access to the racecourse limited to a number of key personnel such as stable staff, jockeys and trainers, and strict protocols around social distancing and sanitisation.”

However, there will be a number of strict new measures enforced, including the banning of all owners from attending race meetings.

HRI said: “The Board reviewed the five meetings that have taken place since Friday, and recommended some extra measures.

“There will be no evening meetings and no double meetings – this will reduce the draw on medical resources, a principal concern for larger racing jurisdictions with multiple meetings every day.

“A maximum of one meeting per day to reduce impact on resources.

“Jockeys’ weights to increase by 2lb from Friday, on the Flat and in National Hunt – all racecourse saunas are closed.

“No owners permitted to attend race meetings. No overseas runners will be permitted for the time being in Irish races.

“A maximum of 30-minute intervals between races to assist social distancing.”

Nicky Hartery, chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, added:“These are unprecedented and sombre times and we are seeking the best ways to support the racing community and industry throughout what lies ahead.

“Health and welfare of employees and industry participants is the prime consideration and within that context, we have introduced protocols which can allow racing to continue and thousands of families who rely on the sector to maintain a livelihood.

“This will be kept under review on a daily basis and we are also planning measures for reprogramming fixtures as it becomes required. Changes to the programme will be separately announced.

“We have consulted with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine throughout this process and we will continue to strictly adhere to the Government and HSE advice.

“We have made it clear at all times that our medical facilities and personnel will be available for the Government to use if necessary – that will take precedence above any other consideration.”

The Irish Flat season is due to start at Naas on Sunday, while major jumps festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown are scheduled for April.