By Duane Fonseca
The French Government has decided to pull the plug on racing in certain parts of the country after announcing it was withdrawing its approval to race in areas heavily affected by Covid-19.
Venues in Paris and the east of the country like Longchamp, Saint-Cloud and Auteuil will be closed under a further review is conducted by relevant government authorities, but racing is set to continue in places like Normandy and the south and west of the country.
France Galop president Edouard de Rothschild remained defiant that a solution would be reached, but reacted strongly to the sudden withdrawal by the government on Twitter dubbing the decision as “inexplicable and irrational”.
Racing had only resumed a week earlier on 11 May and addressing the racing community, De Rothschild tweeted: “I will not give in. I am proud of your exemplary behaviour behind closed doors since May 11 and the colossal work undertaken by our teams for more than two months. We have been and will be reactive. Long live racing!”
According to a joint statement from France Galop and Le Trot, the government will publish its new Covid-19 related protocols in the coming days. The government's new racing directive effectively shuts courses in the virus hotspots until further notice. If the Oise prefecture follows the Paris lead, Chantilly could also be lost to the resumption programme.
A communique issued by France Galop and Le Trot said: “Having obtained authorisation to restart racing from May 11, the two governing bodies have learned during the course of the day that a new government decree, which will clarify the way racecourses can operate, is to be published within the very near future.
“This will state that horseracing can safely continue in departments situated in green zones of the country, but not those in the red.
“Certain prefectures such as Paris have pre-empted the publication of the decree and this morning notified France Galop and Le Trot that they are forbidden from opening their racecourses.”
Longchamp was due to stage the French Classics, Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Pouliches on 1 June, but that won’t be the case now as the next stage of the government’s lockdown review will not be done until a day later.
The two French Classics may now be hosted at Deauville, which hosted the races for the two years when Longchamp was being redeveloped.
France Galop, themselves, are looking to publish a revised programme.
“While the new decree reinforces the restart of racing, France Galop, Le Trot and the National Federation of Horseracing [FNCH] deeply regret that the courses situated in the red zones cannot continue to function as they have since May 11,” the communique added.
“The protocols surrounding racing behind closed doors have been scrupulously observed since the return on May 11. Regular checks and observations have been carried out and they have revealed no problems.”