Meetings at risk

Musselburgh doubts as four Classic races called off

Doubts over the staging of Ladies Day at Musselburgh in June (pic: Terry Murden)

Horse racing hopes to stage the first four Classics of the season – including the Derby at Epsom – later in the season as doubts are cast over one of Musselburgh’s big race days.

Next month’s Guineas meeting at Newmarket, featuring the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, is off, as is the Derby and Oaks meeting in June.

However, Royal Ascot’s five-day meeting, traditionally attended by the Queen and about 300,000 racegoers later in June, may take place behind closed doors.

Customers who have bought tickets and/or hospitality for the meeting will be refunded in full.

Jockey Club Racecourses said the Guineas fixture (2-3 May) and the Derby meeting (5-6 June) were being called off “due to the ongoing public health emergency”.

Postponement of the Classics also puts a question mark over the likelihood of Musselburgh staging its big Ladies Day meeting on Derby day (6 June) which last year drew a 10,000-strong capacity crowd.

Four Musselburgh meetings called off so far have been the Racing Post Go North race day (20 March); the meeting on 31 March; this Saturday’s Betway Easter race day (11 April); and Thursday 30 April.

Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud and DJ Edith Bowman at last year’s June meeting at Musselburgh (pic: Terry Murden)

Talks are under way over rescheduling the big Classic races – which are solely for three-year-old horses – later this year. Cancellation would mean the current generation would miss their chance of the biggest prizes and the follow-on earnings from breeding.

Pinatubo, owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin team and trained in Newmarket by Charlie Appleby, had been hot favourite for the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby.

The colt was given an official rating above that of multi-winner Frankel at the same age and the highest for a juvenile racehorse in Europe for 25 years.

Ruth Quinn, director of international racing at the British Horseracing Authority, said: “As a sport we have a responsibility to safeguard the staging of our Classics, and to position them within a sensible, balanced schedule of complementary events wherever possible.

“We will continue to work together to deliver the optimal outcome within these unprecedented set of circumstances.

“We are developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered in these challenging times. Naturally one of the key priorities is the staging of the generation-defining races.

“The plan will adapt depending on when racing recommences, but will aim to ensure that we provide suitable opportunities for the horses most likely to define the future of the thoroughbred breed if at all possible.”

There are five Classics in the British Flat racing season, concluding with the St Leger at Doncaster in September which is, so far, unaffected by rescheduling.

It was announced on 17 March that all British racing would be suspended until at least the end of April. The Cheltenham Festival was allowed to go ahead amid some criticism.

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