• ‘Test events’ scheduled this week to pilot new protocols
  • Attendance limited to two owners per horse

By Andrew Atkinson Breaking news

Racehorse owners will be able to start attending race meetings behind closed doors from Saturday July 4 in a safe and risk-managed way, under plans agreed by the Racecourse Association (RCA), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) and British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

“We are delighted to be able to welcome back owners to the racecourse, albeit in limited numbers for now.

“Owners are critical to our sport and their patience and support during lockdown has been vital. The special measures that are set out in the new protocols should enable owners to enjoy the racing experience again but to do so in a safe and responsible fashion,” said RCA Chief Executive David Armstrong.

The return of owners to the racecourse will be a phased process, with interim safety and infection control measures in place to minimise risk for owners, prioritise the wellbeing of all attendees, and ensure that the sport is aligned with government guidance relating to attendance at elite sports venues.

Two test fixtures will be held on Wednesday July 1 at Southwell and Kempton Park to pilot the protocols and allow for a thorough review of the processes in place to facilitate a smooth implementation.

This will enable owners to experience racing behind closed doors and provide useful feedback ahead of the wider planned rollout from Saturday July 4. Owners will be notified directly via email about how to register for the test events, once their horse is declared to run.

The protocols only apply to racecourses in England at this stage, but British racing continues to engage with the Scottish and Welsh Governments on the return of owners to the racecourse for behind closed doors fixtures.

The RCA is also working directly with all racecourses to support their preparations and ensure they are ready to welcome owners back at the earliest opportunity.

Not all racecourses will be able to accommodate owners immediately, they remain subject to local authority clearance and operational restrictions. If a racecourse is unable to accommodate owners, owners will be notified in advance.

Under current plans, owners will be able to attend all fixtures scheduled for Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 July. More information about attendance at fixtures being held from Monday 6 July will be published later.

Guidance for owners

To support owners in adjusting to these new operating procedures, and to clarify why they are necessary, a guidance document has been produced, which details the essential protocols that must be followed by all owners attending race meetings behind closed doors. The document is available here.

The following measures will apply to all race meetings able to facilitate the return of owners until further notice:

  •   A maximum of two owners (or representatives) per horse can attend for their race(s) only.
  •   Pre-registration ahead of all race meetings using the RCA’s Privilege Access Swipe System (PASS) and only confirmed attendees will be granted access to the racecourse. Owners will be emailed automatically with details on how to register once their horse is declared to run.
  •   A health screening process, which includes the BHA’s COVID-19 online learning module and a personally administered health assessment in advance of raceday, followed by health questions and a temperature check upon arrival.
  •   Owners to arrive no earlier than 45 minutes before their first horse is due to run and leave the racecourse within one hour following the final race in which they have a confirmed runner.
  •   Dedicated ‘owner zones’, which will separate owners from raceday workers (trainers, stable staff, jockeys, officials, media etc.) for infection control purposes. No movement will be permitted between the two areas.

These temporary measures will be eased gradually subject to government guidance for sports venues and public health requirements, and a more integrated raceday experience will be re-introduced at the earliest opportunity.

These protocols, and others contained within the guidance for owners, have been developed in line with British racing’s protocols for behind closed doors racing. They are approved by the UK Government and underpinned by specific government guidance around the return of elite domestic sporting competition behind closed doors, which sets the minimum standards that sport is required to meet to resume competition.

The BHA’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, said: “As with our wider approach to resumption, the return of owners is predicated on a phased, risk-managed plan, which establishes infection control protocols that are essential for the safe continuation of racing during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

“These include pre-entry screening for owners and segregated areas to facilitate social distancing at no closer than two metres – measures that prioritise the safety of our attendees, are consistent with government guidance for elite sports fixtures behind closed doors, and are supported by the UK Government.”

ROA Chief Executive, Charlie Liverton, said: “It’s great to have owners back on the course and I’d like to thank the BHA, the racecourses and the team at the ROA for their hard work since the resumption of racing to put in place protocols for owners to attend.

“Owners contribute so much to this sport and it has been frustrating not to be on the track to see their horses run. Their patience and loyalty has been very much appreciated during this challenging period. There is still more work to do and we will continue to work with owners and racing’s stakeholders to get our sport back up and running in full with people across the UK able to enjoy a day’s racing on course when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”