France Galop, the ruling body of French racing, confirmed on Saturday it will resume with meetings at Longchamp, Toulouse and Compiegne on Monday, but only after what is believed to have been urgent behind-the-scenes lobbying by Edouard de Rothschild, FG’s president, late on Friday night that persuaded Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to finally give the resumption a green light.
De Rothschild thanked Macron and Edouard Philippe, France’s prime minister, for their efforts in a tweet in the early hours of Saturday morning that confirmed racing had seen off last-minute objections to its return.
The protests are rumoured to have been lodged by a group of senior executives from French football, which has been suspended, along with all other professional team sports in the country, until September.
“I wanted to win this race more than any of the others,” De Rothschild, a leading owner and breeder, said. “Together we did it! Resumption of races is accepted. Let’s show them that they were right!”
Antoine Griezmann, the Barcelona and France striker, was among the Twitter users to respond positively. Griezmann has a growing string of racehorses and has recently retired Tornibush – who won a Group Three contest in 2018, half-an-hour after his owner scored a goal at the World Cup – to stand at stud.
France Galop later issued a statement confirming the news that tracks in Paris – which is classified as a “red zone” under the French government’s plans to ease its coronavirus lockdown will be allowed to race behind closed doors. “France Galop, LeTROT [which regulates trotting] and the National Federation of horse racing have received the government authorities’ definitive approval for the resumption of racing behind closed doors from 11 May,” it said.
“The parent companies would like to point out the importance of respecting the barrier gestures [physical distancing] at the racecourses and thank everyone involved for following the sanitary procedures to the letter, which is crucial for the resumption of racing.”
Racing resumed in Germany on Thursday, but France is the first of the “Big Three” racing nations in Europe to start its Flat season. The British Horseracing Authority is waiting to hear the prime ministeron Sunday evening before deciding whether it will be able to put plans to resume behind closed doors this month into action.
In Ireland, the racing authorities are hoping to persuade the government to think again about a recent decision that racing should not resume in the country any earlier than 29 June.