Irish horse racing set to resume on 8 June

Clonmel racing
The last racing in Ireland was held behind closed doors at Clonmel on 24 March

Irish horse racing is set to resume behind closed doors at Naas on 8 June after a two-and-a-half-month absence.

The Republic's roadmap to emerge from its coronavirus lockdown had suggested that the sport would not restart until the end of June at the earliest.

However, the date has been moved forward as a result of talks between the government and Horse Racing Ireland.

There has been no racing in Ireland since 24 March.

A range of new protocols will be introduced to ensure that social distancing measures are adhered to as racing resumes.

Each fixture will have a dedicated Covid-19 protocol officer who will ensure that only key personnel are present at the meetings, while health and thermal temperature screening will take place on arrival.

Mandatory face coverings will be worn by "most" of those in attendance.

Following Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's move to restrict outdoor and indoor gatherings on 12 March, racing did continue for another 12 days, albeit behind closed doors, before being postponed entirely as number of cases of the virus continued to rise in Ireland.

The pandemic has led to the cancellation of number of Ireland's biggest racing festivals, including Punchestown and Fairyhouse, but it is hoped that the Irish Grand National will be integrated into an enhanced autumn schedule.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said in April that racing in Ireland "will take a seismic economic blow from the fall-out of Covid-19".

Kavanagh welcomed the news that the sport would return, citing how key the summer months were in the "seasonal and cyclical nature of the industry".

However he was also keen to stress that it would not be a return to business as usual.

"These will not be race meetings as you might traditionally imagine them," he warned.

"Rather stripped back events which will determine the best horses in various categories, a vital factor for the breeding industry.

"Attendance will be kept to an absolute minimum and Covid-19 protocols will be strictly enforced."

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