The remainder of the 2019-20 Irish jumps season has been cancelled as the Irish Government put a ban on all sporting events due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
It means the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festival will not be rescheduled. While there was hope the festivals could have been hosted behind closed doors, the Irish government has put a current hold on all sporting events until at least April 19.
At a meeting of the Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) board on Wednesday, a strategy was discussed that would allow Irish jumps season to return as quickly as possible once it is appropriate to do so and within government guidelines.
The board said it recognised that, at least initially, racing would restart on the Flat with adherence to strict social distancing protocols as were successfully operated at 10 race fixtures in March prior to the pause on racing.
“We have stressed throughout that government and HSE guidelines around fighting Covid-19 must come first and racing will only be able to resume when the government guidelines permit and when there is adequate medical cover in place to ensure that race meetings can be staged safely,” Nicky Hartery, chairman of HRI, said.
“No-one can predict when this point will be reached.
“What the board agreed today was a plan to get back racing once those guidelines allow.”
Brian Kavanagh, the chief executive of HRI, said he hoped to publish a new fixture list as soon as possible.
“Like many other sectors, the racing and breeding industry in Ireland will take a seismic economic blow from the fall-out of Covid-19. We will be working closely with Government to limit the long-term impact of this pandemic.
“We know that jobs will be lost in a key rural industry and that the viability of some industry institutions will come under serious threat,” he said.
“We are working on a range of industry supports which we hope to announce in the coming weeks. Once an achievable target resumption date can be identified, a new fixture list covering the rest of the year will be quickly published based on our on-going work, along with revised race programmes that will cater for the entire horse population.”