190620 blue point
Royal Ascot should go ahead on schedule this year but behind closed doors. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: British horse racing has received a massive boost with news that the 2020 flat season will resume from the first week of June, with the staging of the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas (Group 1), the first Classics of the calendar.

Following the latest provisional programme recommended by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Royal Ascot is scheduled to take place in its usual slot between June 16 and 20.

However, there is likely to be several adjustments to the order and number of races at the five-day annual highlight of the British cultural calendar.

The Epsom Derby, the country’s most famous and richest race with prize money of 1.6 million will be held on July 4 at the world-famous Epsom Downs in Surrey.

The Epsom Derby is the richest race in the UK.

Epsom is currently working with the local police and other authorities to firm up the procedures that include the fencing around the venue’s perimeter.

As with all the forthcoming race meetings across the UK, the races will be held behind closed doors, in line with ongoing government instructions, following the COVID-19 crisis.

Normal public access to racecourse land will be strictly forbidden for 24 hours.

Deli Bushell, CEO of the Jockey Club group which owns the facility together with 14 other racecourses in Britain, welcomed the positive news.

“We are working hard on a practical and deliverable plan to stage the 2020 Investec Derby and Investec Oaks at their traditional home, without a crowd and once racing is approved to resume by government,” she said in the Racing Post.

“I’d like to express my sincere thanks to the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators (who manage Epsom Racecourse) for their backing today.

“These two Classics play a vital role in the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries, so it’s of great importance for them to be able to go ahead during this difficult period.

“Our teams now look forward to working with the British Horse racing Authority and local authorities to bring our plan to life.”

The Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park is a summer highlight.

The Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, one of the major summer highlights which has been won by the likes of Enable, Sea The Stars, Daylami and Halling (twice), will be held on July 5.

Traditionally a contest where the three-year-olds get one of their first chances to test themselves against the older generation, this year’s renewal will be only open to four-year-olds and above.

Commenting on the revised schedule of the British racing calendar, Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at Ascot commented: “The important thing is that the race planning around Royal Ascot reflects the unusual circumstances in which it’s going to be run.

“We must be mindful of the wider public health situation in June but we should still plan to go ahead and put together a Pattern that reflects the requirements of those involved in the sport. It will be different but will still absolutely be recognisable as Royal Ascot.

“With the Guineas much closer to the meeting than normal we’ll have to work out how that affects our three-year-old races and it’s obviously not an ideal situation preparing juveniles for Royal Ascot.

“Ordinarily you’d have considerably more time but those two-year-old races will be run and clearly they won’t attract the number of experienced horses as normal. Alongside the Pattern races it’s really important to develop a programme for as many juveniles as possible to get to Royal Ascot with some experience under their belts.”