As we all look ahead and hope for the day when the Covid-19 crisis is a thing of the past, it’s perfectly normal to think about what may be different once everything gets back to normal.
The sports world has been effectively put on hold. While there are still some operating tracks here in the US, the number continues to dwindle.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes have already been postponed, and it’s safe to assume the date for the Belmont Stakes is being treated as if it were written in pencil.
It’s not just racing here in the states that has been impacted either. Across the pond, the horse racing calendar is at a standstill as well.
Racing proposes to work with the government to develop creative solutions to resume when that is possible. To do this, racing will need to maintain racecourses in the right condition and fill critical roles at a race-day, including doctors and paramedics. It will need horses fit to race and jockeys ready to ride. We are planning a revised fixture programme that will be flexible enough to respond to local variations in the provision of health services and continuing government restrictions. We cannot yet set out a timetable for resumption. No one can. Our ability to keep resources in place, horses exercised and ready to return to action, will be tested. The industry’s leaders would like to give more certainty over dates, but it is too early to do so at present.
While that doesn’t sound too promising, the good news is that the BHA is being proactive and offering full transparency on its plans moving forward.
The BHA understandably didn’t lock itself into a set date in the plan. The UK is under lockdown orders due to the crisis, and it’s tough to pinpoint exactly how long that may last.
However, in comments to the Racing Post, Newmarket Trainers Federation chairman William Jarvis indicates that discussions are taking place about getting everything back up and running before too long.
“We’ve been talking about the resumption of racing and we’re trying to be proactive in this. I think that not only would it be of huge benefit for the industry, I think it would be a boost for the nation. I think if we could be seen to be a leader going forward it would be a huge benefit, and I think it’s very feasible,” Jarvis said. “We’ve spoken to racecourse management and we believe that if we’re given permission to stage a race meeting in May then that would be completely possible. We think we could get in private ambulances, retired doctors, paramedics and we’ve had discussions with people about this.”
Additionally, the Racing Post reports that BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea commented in a letter to stakeholders that the target was a “resumption from the 1st of May.”
If the ambitious goal is met, one idea that appears to be gaining steam is the setting up of regional hubs, possibly in the north, mainlands, and south of the country.
Inside of each hub would be one or a couple of race tracks designated for use. Those assigned to each hub – think jockeys, trainers, track staff, officials – would remain stationary and not be moving from track to track based on the schedule.
That would limit travel and movement, which is obviously one of the biggest concerns right now across the globe. It’s an interesting concept that sounds like a smart way to approach a return to some semblance of normalcy.
We’ll have to wait and see what develops, but it certainly sounds like an idea worth exploring here in the US as well. The busy summer and spring racing calendars are already in flux, so perhaps regional hubs in less impacted areas may be the way to go until the crisis is fully behind us.