Dubai World Cup to be run behind closed doors owing to coronavirus

Horse Racing Dubai World Cup 2019
Thunder Snow (left) touches off Gronknowski in a fierce battle for the 2019 Dubai World Cup at Meydan. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley

By Nicholas Godfrey

UAE: The world’s richest racecard will be run without paying customers after it was announced the 2020 Dubai World Cup will take place behind closed doors as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus.

The Dubai Racing Club issued a statement on Thursday saying that only horses’ connections, officials, media and sponsors will be allowed on site at Meydan for the $35 million card on March 28.

In addition, all supporting events in the week leading up to the race, such as the annual Breakfast With The Stars and even the post-position draw ceremony, will be cancelled. Raceday entertainments have also been cancelled.

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“All races will be contested and regulated in a standard fashion and results will be recorded officially,” the Dubai Racing Club said in a statement.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding and are monitoring the situation on a daily basis. We continue to coordinate and adhere to the guidelines from the UAE government.”

Racing has been taking place under similar crowdless conditions closer to the COVID-19 epicentre in the Far East hotbeds of Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, while in Europe meetings have been held without paying customers at Chantilly and Compiegne.

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Thursday marked a significant beefing up of restrictions worldwide, however. Horse Racing Ireland announced that racing will take place behind closed doors until at least Sunday March 29. Dundalk’s scheduled card on Friday evening is the first to be affected.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh explained: “Race meetings will not be open to the public, in line with measures taken by other international racing jurisdictions, such as France, Hong Kong, Japan and Dubai.”

In the US, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in California became the first tracks to adopt a similar line after Gavin Newsom, the state Governor, recommended cancelling or postponing gatherings of more than 250 people.

The New York Racing Association quickly followed suit with similar restrictions at Aqueduct, effective immediately. The decision followed an announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban gatherings of 500 or more people to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Keeneland’s prestigious Spring Meet will also begin on April 2 without spectators; they will consider opening the doors on April 15 depending on developments. The April Two-Year-Old s in Training Sale and Horses of Racing Age Sale set for April 7 is cancelled.

The popular Carolina Cup jumps meeting scheduled for March 28 has been cancelled.

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