Racing in Ireland has been cleared to resume behind closed doors on 8 June, three weeks earlier than initially scheduled under the Irish government’s plan to ease its coronavirus lockdown. The sport’s lobbying to be exempted from a ban on all professional sports until 29 June proved successful.
The news means that, if the British Horseracing Authority’s plans to resume from 1 June also succeed, all of Europe’s major racing nations will be back in action by mid-June.
As in Britain, Ireland will resume under strict protocols to stop the spread of Covid-19. Only key personnel will be allowed on course, “all attendees will be subject to health screening in advance and thermal temperature screening on arrival”, and “anyone presenting with elevated temperatures will be denied access and instructed to consult with their GP”.
Face masks will be mandatory for jockeys and stalls handlers as well as medical and security staff, while “social distancing will be strictly enforced by a dedicated Covid-19 protocol officer at each fixture”.
There was anger and dismay within Irish racing when it emerged that racing had been bracketed with some other major sports and banned until phase three of the government’s steady unwinding of the lockdown. Its switch to phase two, which starts on 8 June, was approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday morning.
“It was reassuring that the importance of horse racing as an industry was fully appreciated,” Brian Kavanagh, the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said on Friday. “The industry supports 29,000 jobs in rural Ireland, and we are the third largest producer, and largest exporter, of thoroughbreds in the world, all of which depends on racing taking place on track.
“These will not be race meetings as you might traditionally imagine them, rather stripped-back events which will determine the best horses in various categories, a vital factor for the breeding industry.”
HRI will release a revised fixture list until the end of June, including confirmation of dates for its major Classics, on Sunday. Greg Wood
Yorkshire winner Uncle Steve is fancied for Hong Kong
The road to Hong Kong goes through East Yorkshire, or at least it did for Uncle Steve (9.35), who can land the feature race on Sha Tin’s Sunday morning card. Now five, the miler achieved the first success of his career at Beverley a couple of summers back, when he was named Court Of Justice and trained by David Simcock.
He won a couple of races at Sha Tin in his first year there and looks ready to make it three, judging by his latest effort. He was given plenty to do but stayed on powerfully into third, faring easily best of the hold-up runners, and it is encouraging to see Chad Schofield take over from a claimer in the saddle. The extra furlong should also help and Uncle Steve can hopefully provide the highlight of a card to be screened by Sky Sports Racing.
6.00 After seven winners in the past fortnight, including a 29-1 shot in midweek, John Moore evidently has a few of his horses in a good place and this may be the time to side with his Aeroflash. A steady improver since joining Moore in midseason, he should appreciate this step up in trip.
6.30 Jerry Chau made an immediate impact with two winners from four rides last weekend and his 10lb claim could help Goko to a fifth course and distance success. Winless for a year, the speedster has dropped back in rating and grade and showed promise last time until tiring in the sixth furlong.
7.00 Few of these are begging to be backed but Judy’s Star has been knocking on the door and still looks unexposed. He was given a lot to do last time behind a winner who made all, and a new rider gets a chance here.
7.30 After steady progress in his initial runs, All For St Paul’s showed real promise when runner-up here four weeks ago, beaten only by Team Power, who is fancied later on the card. Another good effort seems likely in a winnable contest, though his draw is tricky for a front-runner.
8.00 He last scored in 2018 but Winning Controller has three wins at this course to his name and is attractively rated these days. His fourth at Happy Valley last month, following a six-month break, was one of his best efforts at that track, even though the six furlongs was too sharp. He could be a source of value, with much attention sure to be paid to Chevalier Prince after a flashy debut.
8.35 The step up to six furlongs did not work out for War Of Courage three weeks ago, though he still put up a classy effort to be third and the winner has since gone in again. Returned to the sprint course on which he has such a fine record, and drawn on what is often the favoured side, he is the one to beat. Good View Clarico has won his last two but this is a step up in class.
9.05 Moore has another chance here with Awe, who was with William Haggas when first home on the wrong side in the Britannia at Royal Ascot last summer. After a few quiet runs in Hong Kong, he showed promise when blinkers were fitted last time, running on over too short a trip.
10.10 This is a step up in grade for Team Power but he looks ready for it, judging by how he relished a first attempt at this distance here last month. The chestnut, who overcame some trouble in running that day, is well drawn to take an early position.
10.45 A slow start followed by traffic issues killed off Mig Energy’s chance a fortnight ago but Tony Cruz’s youngster stayed on well into third. There’s a race in him when he gets better luck, though he’ll need some from stall 12 here. Inner Flame is a threat to all if he behaves better in the stalls than last time. Chris Cook