Coronavirus forces suspension of horse racing until end of April
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has confirmed that the sport in Britain is to be suspended until at least the end of April due to coronavirus pandemic.
Two race meetings are scheduled to take place behind closed doors at Wetherby and Taunton today, after which the measures will come into place.
It means that Newmarket's season-opening Craven Meeting – due to take place between April 14-16 – will now not take place.
The BHA's chief executive Nick Rust said: “This is a national emergency the like of which most of us have never seen before. We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry.
"But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.
“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.
“There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals.
"We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.
“We are in constant contact with government which understands the very significant consequences of this decision for jobs and businesses. We will work with them to do our best to manage the impact.
“Racing leaders will keep today’s decision under constant review and endeavour to keep all customers, participants, staff and dependent businesses informed as the situation progresses.”
Meanwhile, Pointing East Anglia have also announced an early end to their 2019/20 season.
A statement from the organisation read: "This was a very difficult decision to make recognising that many people’s livelihoods are involved.
"However, the Prime Minister’s words last night made clear that everyone should minimise social contact and non-essential travel. Furthermore, our sport creates some medical burden, both on the course and potentially at the hospitals, where it would be unwelcome under the current circumstances.
"The PPA would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has worked so hard to keep this season going so successfully until now, often under very trying circumstances.
"We will now be working on preparations to ensure that we start next autumn in the same successful manner as last, and will soon be in touch with many of you for your thoughts and ideas."
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More by this authorLiam Apicella