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Samcro and Davy Russell (near side) get the better of Melon and Patrick Mullins to win the Marsh Novices Steeplechase at Cheltenham. Picture: Healy Racing
Samcro and Davy Russell (near side) get the better of Melon and Patrick Mullins to win the Marsh Novices Steeplechase at Cheltenham. Picture: Healy Racing
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Horse Racing Ireland forced to cancel the rest of the National Hunt season

THE current National Hunt season has been called off.

The board of Horse Racing Ireland met on Tuesday and in response to the need to provide as much clarity as possible to the racing industry they decided to conclude the hunt campaign.

The board also discussed a strategy that would allow Irish racing to return as quickly as possible once it is appropriate to do so and within government guidelines. The proposal is that racing will restart on the flat and most likely behind closed doors, with adherence to strict social distancing protocols. This was the case for 10 fixtures in March until stricter government rules came into force.

“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.

"No one can predict when this point will be reached," said Nicky Hartery, chairman of Horse Racing Ireland. “What the Board agreed today was a plan to get back racing once those guidelines allow.” 

A number of fixture and race programme scenarios have been developed by the executive which will ensure a timely and agile response when a potential restart date becomes clearer. 

The plan for a staggered resumption strategy would initially see a programme of solely flat racing fixtures for one month so as to prioritise the portion of the horse population which most require the resumption of racecourse action, whilst also minimising potential requirement for medical support.

The decision was also taken by the board to end the 2019/2020 National Hunt season immediately, with the spring festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown not to be rescheduled. Instead an enhanced National Hunt programme from October to December 2020 will be revealed later this year and it is intended to include in that programme the 2020 BoyleSports Irish Grand National.