By Duane Fonseca
France Galop have announced plans to resume racing behind closed doors and under “strictly controlled health conditions” from 11 May.
Racing in France had been suspended since 17 March due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but in an attempt to support the industry a meeting was held between the presidents of the racing associations and other government officials to determine a way forward. The group met on 21 April, with France Galop claiming the meeting “proved to be constructive” and that “everything is made to allow the racing industry to overcome the financial damage caused by this crisis”.
When racing operations recommence they will do so under tight protocols where runners would be represented at the racecourse by a trainer, rider and groom. A statement from France Galop added horses and jockeys based outside the country will not be allowed to race until at least the end of May.
France Galop are expected to publish a fixture list later this week, with it being suggested that racing would be limited to racecourses that have the right facilities to cater for the safety requirements.
The statement issued by France Galop read: “Very strict limitations will be enforced. For example, the connections of a horse declared to run will be limited to his or her groom, his or her trainer, and his or her jockey/driver.
“Tens of thousands of French households live from the horse racing industry, from stud farms to training stables, taking care of the horses and seeing to their welfare.
“While the races were stopped, most of the work had to be done as horses, especially those trained for competition, cannot live in confinement. Training yards and stud farms continued to operate, without being able to get any resources from racing, their natural source of income.
“However, the health and welfare of all those involved in the organisation of racing meetings will be the main priority of France Galop and LeTROT.
“Racing would be conducted behind closed doors, as it was the last days before it had to be halted on March 17. This successful experience on the Oise racecourses in March showed our ability to ensure satisfactory sanitary conditions of all those participating in our race meetings.
“The staff in charge of the meetings' organization will also be very restricted. Access to the racecourses will be highly monitored, and all participants will be provided with the equipment necessary to work in good conditions without taking any risks. Shared spaces will be set up to avoid contact between those participating. In order to further minimise health hazard, horses trained abroad and jockeys holding a license issued in a country other than France (unless they are confined to France) will not be allowed to participate in French races, until the end of May at least.”
The statement added: “In terms of the program, in view of a resumption of activity from Monday, May 11, the Racing authorities have paid particular attention to respecting the balances between the different categories of horses, breeds and areas. France Galop and LeTrot will publish their programme in the next few days.
“If France Galop and LeTrot are getting ready to resume racing at the national level from May 11, it all comes down to the evolution of the pandemic and the measures taken by the Government regarding the gradual exit from the lockdown.”