May race plan includes rescheduled Craven, Dante and Lockinge Stakes

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
Racing is set to be held behind closed doors when it returns
Racing is set to be held behind closed doors when it returns

The final two weekends in May have been earmarked for some big races if British racing is given the go-ahead to resume.

Racing has been suspended since 17 March because of the coronavirus crisis and key contests, including the Chester Vase, are set to be cancelled.

But some could be saved, with 16 Group races provisionally planned to be run behind closed doors this month.

The Craven Stakes would be on 23 or 24 May, with the Dante a week later, along with the Lockinge Stakes.

Plans are part of a 'best case scenario' and dependent on government approval for racing's resumption.

It is hoped that the season's first two Classics - the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas - will be held on the first weekend in June after being postponed from their original dates at Newmarket this weekend.

Race planners have warned that some contests may need to be staged at alternative racecourses to their usual venues.

"Under our best-case scenario planning, and subject to advice from public health authorities, the aim is to rescue a number of lost events from the early part of the spring and stage them during the second half of May and early June, if possible," said a statement issued by the British Horseracing Authority.

Under a provisional schedule from the Flat Pattern Planning Committee, the following races would be held on weekends in late May and early June (their traditional venues are in brackets).

  • 23-24 May: Pavilion, Sagaro, Paradise Stakes (Ascot); Nell Gwyn, Craven (Newmarket); Greenham, Fred Darling, Aston Park (Newbury); Brigadier Gerard (Sandown); Conqueror (Goodwood); Pinnacle (Haydock)
  • 24-31 May: Lockinge (Newbury); Palace House (Newmarket); Yorkshire Cup, Dante, Musidora, Middleton (York); Cecil Frail, Spring Trophy (Haydock).
  • 5-6 June: 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Pretty Polly, (Newmarket); Coronation Cup (Epsom); Bronte Cup (York)

Some of the leading races that would be abandoned are the Cheshire Oaks, the Dee Stakes and Ormonde Stakes at Chester, Lingfield's Derby and Oaks Trials, Haydock's Temple Stakes, the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, plus Goodwood's Cocked Hat and Height of Fashion Stakes.

The Chester Vase was won by subsequent Derby victor Ruler of the World seven years ago, and the 2017 Chester runner-up Wings Of Eagles went on to also win at Epsom.

Racing's leaders are keen that any return limits demands on the under-pressure NHS, and initial plans include a maximum of 12 runners per race with senior jockeys only to reduce the risk of injuries and help with social distancing.

Organisers of the Royal Ascot meeting are planning for it to go ahead, without spectators, from 16 June while the Oaks and the Derby have been earmarked for July.

One suggestion for the resumption of racing is the use of racecourse 'hubs', such as Lingfield, Newcastle and Newmarket where jockeys, stable staff and officials could stay close by or on site in hotels.

Racing has continued behind closed doors at tracks in Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.

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