As British racing is currently suspended until at least May 1 following the coronavirus pandemic, the Jockey Club announced at the beginning of April that the first four Classics of the British Flat season will be delayed with the plan, if Government guidelines are relaxed as anticipated, to stage them later in the season.
The first amendment to the Classic racing calendar is the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas races due to take place at Newmarket over the 2-3 May 2020. Following the Guineas, the Investec Epsom Oaks and Epsom Derby will also be postponed from 5-6 June 2020.
It is hoped both race meetings hosting four Classics between them will be rescheduled later in the year, with more details announced by the Jockey Club once the suspension of British racing is lifted by the BHA. The Jockey Club is currently in talks with the BHA and other key stakeholders regarding potential future dates.
It should be noted, that a statement from Phil White, London regional director for Jockey Club racecourses, indicates that there could be logistical difficulty preventing the Derby festival being staged behind closed doors. The Downs, in the middle of the racecourse, is a public space therefore it would be difficult to regulate members of the public congregating in that area.
Furthermore the organisers of Royal Ascot 2020 (16-20 June) have also announced that it will not be able to take place as an event open to the public.
They are hoping it may be possible “to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing. This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally. Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.”
Like a majority of sports, the flat racing community believes given its significance to the economy and the generally, large unenclosed arenas allowing manageable social distancing, it could be one of the first sports to resume in the UK.
Without doubt, everyone in the racing industry acknowledges the importance the Classics are to the racing and thoroughbred breeding structure, so it would seem the organisers are almost obliged to plan to reschedule them if at all possible.
At this time is it likely that the St Leger Festival in Doncaster running from 9-12 September will go ahead as planned.
With regards to other notable flat races in the UK racing calendar, currently the Goodwood Festival is still running between 28 July – 1 August although a statement is expected soon.
And the Yorkshire Ebor Festival is also planned to run as scheduled to run in August 2020.
Should racing gain approval to restart in France at the beginning of next month, the opening four Classics of the season — the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane — will be pushed back by approximately a month.
However at this stage there are no published plans to postpone the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris at the beginning of October.