Ireland’s racing industry bucked the global trend in sports cancellation this week, confirming that horse racing would continue behind closed doors.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) confirmed that scheduled race meetings would carry on without spectators, although they would adhere strictly to government rules on the combatting the pandemic. The decision was reportedly taken in light of the dependence of so many people in Ireland on the racing industry, although the Chairman of the HRI, Nicky Hartery, acknowledged that it had been a difficult decision to make in light of the circumstances:
“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.”
Hartery added that the situation would be reviewed daily and that HRI was also putting measures in place to cover the rescheduling of fixtures as required.
In reaching the decision, HRI said it had consulted with the government throughout and that they would continue to follow the national advice. They added that their medical capacity and personnel were available for the government to call upon if required.
Following a government-imposed restriction on all outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people, five meetings have already happened behind closed doors, with access to the meeting restricted to stable staff, jockeys and trainers, and there are have been strict protocols on sanitisation and social distancing. In addition, HRI have confirmed that there will be no evening or double meetings, in order to minimise the drain on medical resources, a factor that has led to the complete cancellation of UK horse racing, where several race meetings are regularly held every day.