British racing hopes for the best as French close in on return to action after almost two months of inactivity amid coronavirus pandemic
- Racing is expected to be reintroduced in France on Monday after lockdown
- The coronavirus pandemic has led to almost two months of sporting inactivity
- Germany hosted its first behind-closed doors meeting in Hanover on Thursday
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Racing returns in France on Monday and this might be seen as a positive for British officials hoping for encouraging news about their hopes to restart the sport after Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the public on Sunday.
Racing is already back in Germany. But the fact that the resumption of the sport across the Channel came perilously close to falling at the last hurdle will be sobering, especially as the sport in racing-friendly Ireland is now looking like a June 8 resumption is the best it can hope for.
Trials for the French 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, as well as the presence of 2019 French Derby winner Sottsass in the Prix D’Harcourt, will mean French racing will return with a bang in a 10-race card at Paris track Longchamp with meetings also taking place at Compiegne and Toulouse.
British racing could receive a boost when the sport makes its return in France on Monday
But the delicate tightrope officials are treading means Olivier Delloye, chief executive of ruling body France Galop, will not be sounding a fanfare. Delloye said: ‘I will definitely not be promoting racing in the general media. We have to keep low key. The fact we are resuming racing when some other sports are still not allowed can create tension.
‘The big challenge is to make all the people involved in race meetings strictly observe the rules to make sure we do not jeopardise the decision to resume.’ Delloye’s comments reflect the belief that French government jitters were not caused by concern about the sport’s ability to operate within biosecurity guidelines.
Some French media reports have suggested significant figures connected with football — which is banned in France until September — may have lobbied the Government to have a second look at racing, which comes under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Confirmation French racing could start came eight days ago. Delloye added: ‘On Thursday evening when we heard the first rumours that there was a last-minute change of mind at the top level of Government, I was very worried.
Racing returned in Germany on Thursday in a behind-closed-doors meeting at Hanover
‘It was a big surprise because everything was in order. Perhaps it is the difference that has been made between racing and some other big sports.’
Racing in Paris — a hotspot for COVID-19 — has been approved by the police.
Delloye said between 200 and 300 will attend Longchamp. There will be one groom per horse, a trainer or his representative and no owners.
Everyone at the track will be temperature tested, while jockeys will wear masks before and during races.
But, unlike the system understood to be being proposed by British racing, there is no pre-racing testing regime. Also, there will be 18 runners in four of the Longchamp races, while races in Britain will be initially limited to 12 runners.
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