Fingers crossed we’re good for 1 June
Mike Deasy on the resumption of racing getting ever closer – all being well
With fingers and everything else crossed, racing will resume in Britain in just over a week’s time, with Ireland hopefully back seven days later.
The British government has said professional sport, behind closed doors, can recommence from 1 June and in Ireland racing has seen its resumption date brought forward to 8 June.
Clearly, the graphs monitoring the covid-19 situation need to maintain their move in the right direction and the sport needs to convince the respective governments that measures are in place to prevent coronavirus from being contracted at the racecourses.
Fortunately, there have already been brief spells of racing taking place behind closed doors before the pandemic resulted in the sport’s hiatus. And, seemingly, the measures put in place were sufficiently rigorous to prevent the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.
There was also the comfort taken from the resumption of racing in France, but the French government’s decision to return to racing being banned in “red zones”, notably Paris, would have cause a moment or two’s concern.
But there are key differences. Two of the three tracks in Paris, Auteuil and Longchamp are located within the capital. A taxi journey to either from the Gare du Nord is about 25 minutes. It’s as if London would have a racecourse located in Hammersmith.
And French racing continues in the country’s “green zone”, not least Deauville, which now looks like it will play host to the French Guineas, as it has done in the past during Longchamp’s redevelopment.
Tracks earmarked for racing’s return in Britain are not centrally located within urban areas and are more on a par with the location of French tracks where racing will continue.
But keep those fingers crossed that it’s safe and sensible for racing to resume on Monday week.
A welcome side effect of racing returning under strict protocols, is the BHA decision to have 72-hour declarations. It will be interesting to see if that becomes a new normal but, if not, perhaps it could result in much needed 48-hour declaraions for jump racing.
Racing’s TV opportunity
Should racing be the first professional sport to return to action, it will hopefully find itself with a larger than usual audience ready to watch the action.
ITV’s Ed Chamberlain (pictured) has already said that he will need to explain why racing can take place, but not football, and that there are clear sensitivities to acknowledge, with many watching who have suffered the loss of loved ones.
But he’s looking forward to showcasing the sport, albeit in strange circumstances, and was quoted by the Racing Post as saying:
“But then what an opportunity to explain all about racing and hopefully we’ll get a big audience so we can show how cool racing is. I am very excited about showing all the good racing has done, the money racing has raised.”
But the gloss could lose a bit of its shine if football’s Premier League bow to reported government pressure and allows some games to be shown on free-to-air TV.
The 3.00 kick-offs are being promulgated and if say they are shown on the BBC, racing’s share of the audience will be dented and the timing of big races will inevitably come up against stiff competition. Looking at the half-time slot is a likely scenario.
If we have racing on 1 June, what then of the Racing Post resuming in print? It struggled on during the lockdown until racing in Britain and Ireland completely disappeared, and reverted to an online-only edition – £2.80 from all good, er, laptops.
Indeed, getting the paper to places where it can be purchased is one obstacle to overcome – many retailers have either not had papers delivered or have shut up shop.
And the ongoing closure of betting shops means that around 7,000 establishments will not be taking one or more copies. That, combined with no on-course sales, means the cost getting the Post back in circulation, with staff back off furlough, will give senior management a bit of a headache.
Mental Health Awareness Week
The mental health toll which the lockdown in taking is very much an unseen aspect of the coronavirus pandemic. It will have caused virtually everyone some degree of stress and anxiety and, also for many, depression – a vicious condition to have to endure. This being Mental Health Awareness Week, Racing Welfare has put together guidance on helping to cope with mental health pressures.
There’s good advice for all but if you are struggling, do please seek help. From personal experience a few years back, talking to someone helps get you back on the road to recovery.
♦ You can find more about the Racing Welfare support here http://wp.me/s8e3Dl-15145