Goodwood and Fontwell's May fixtures will be staged behind closed doors - or be abandoned

Goodwood's May flat-racing fixtures will not be open to the public - if they go ahead at all. And Fontwell has also lost the chance to open its gates for big fixtures during May.

A scene you won't see soon - Goodwood will be closed to the public for any racing it is able to stage in May / Picture: Getty
A scene you won't see soon - Goodwood will be closed to the public for any racing it is able to stage in May / Picture: Getty

The British Horse Racing Authority has announced that, even if racing is possible as soon as May, the entire month will involve meetings being held behind closed doors.

Today's announcement by the government - extending the UK lockdown by another three weeks - means in any case that even meetings behind closed doors will not be allowed in the first week of May.

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It's a blow to Goodwood, Fontwell, Brighton, Plumpton and Lingfield and racecourses across the country who are left wondering just WHEN they will be able to stage any sort of racing - and when they will be allowed to open their gates to the public.

Fontwell Park will be closed to the public for any racing in May it can stage / Picture: Getty

Goodwood will be hoping at least to be able to stage their three-day May Festival from Thursday 28 to Saturday 30 behind closed doors. Officials have a close eye on how much longer restrictions on events and public gatherings last and how gradually they are lifted - for June brings their popular Three Friday Nights and family raceday while late July means Glorious Goodwood, their flagship week of the year.

Goodwood said on Thursday: "Unfortunately, following the BHA's announcement, our May fixtures will not be open to the public. Stay safe, and see you on the Downs soon."

It's a similar blow to Fontwell, who had already lost three of their first five meetings of the year to waterlogging even before the Covid-19 restrictions came in and hit them further.

Racing at Fontwell tomorrow (April 17) was called off and now the meeting on May 6 will go the same way, while fixtures on May 14 and 24 - that's an evening meeting and the bank holiday Sunday family event - will at best be behind closed doors.

Goodwood and Fontwell say customers with queries about cancelled events should see Q&As on their respective websites, where they will do their best to keep customers updated.

Similar rules and messages apply to Brighton, Plumpton and Lingfield racecourses.

Brighton had three meetings in April and one in early May that won't go ahead at all, and one in later May that could be held with no public present.

Lingfield has already called off a number of April meetings and will now lose its May 1 spring ladies' day, while staff will hope meetings later in the month may be salvagable.

Plumpton had already called off the remainder of its 2019-20 jumps season and tells people on its website home page the next fixture is due on September 20.

Goodwood managing director of sport Adam Waterworth said at present the best hope was for the May Festival to go ahead without public admission.

He said Goodwood was entirely in the hands of the BHA - which in turn would be led by government rules and guidance on what could be staged sport-wise once the present full lockdown was over.

A BHA statement, issued before the government extended the lockdown by another three weeks, said: "The suspension of racing, which is due to finish at the end of April, is to be extended after a decision today by the Board of the British Horseracing Authority.

"Racing stopped on March 18 before the government introduced the current lockdown measures to protect essential emergency services and the health and safety of the public. The government has indicated publicly that it will announce tomorrow that the lockdown restrictions will continue.

"The BHA has not set a new date for ending the suspension but plans are in place so that the sport is ready to resume as soon as is possible and appropriate in consultation with government.

"The BHA has been working with trainers, racecourses and other participants to develop a phased plan for resumption which will allow the sport to transition back to its normal fixture list later in the year. We remain in constant contact with government and are ready to respond quickly.

"Our plans continue to allow for a resumption in May, if that is possible. We assume it would be behind closed doors only, at a point when the safety of participants can be assured and the pressure on the health service allows. Tough biosecurity measures would be in place to keep any risks to a minimum.

"Because of the very strong likelihood that restrictions on mass gatherings will continue, the BHA has decided that racing with crowds will not be possible until June at the earliest. When there is greater clarity about the duration for which restrictions on crowds will apply, the BHA will communicate this to the sport, to customers and to fans."

BHA chief executive Nick Rust, also speaking before Thursday's government announcement the lockdown would continue, said: “We stopped racing in March to protect the health and safety of the public and to limit demands on the NHS. It’s right to continue this suspension until the pressure on the NHS allows for a resumption and we can assure the safety of those taking part.

“We are in touch with government as part of our development of a responsible, coordinated plan for the return of sport when it’s appropriate to do so.

“We’ll continue to develop a range of options drawing on the expertise of our participants and racecourses. But for now, we are all focused on supporting the national effort, maintaining social distancing restrictions and taking care of our people and our horses.”

Keep checking this website for updates on how all sports are being affected by the Covid-19 lockdown

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