By Nicholas Godfrey
France: Horse racing in France, completely suspended since March 17 owing to the coronavirus crisis, is set to resume on a behind-closed-doors basis on May 11.
In a statement on Wednesday night, France Galop said a new programme would be issued in the next few days ready for the planned resumption, which will take place “under strictly supervised sanitary conditions”.
No overseas horses or jockeys will be allowed to participate at least until the end of May, while prize-money levels will depend on a request for government aid. With PMU outlets set to be only partly operational at best, purses are likely to be seriously affected.
With racing still shut down in Britain and Ireland, France is the second major racing nation to announce a date for a resumption, following the lead of Germany, where racing is set to return in early May.
Deutscher Galopp has published a provisional six-week racing programme that will run until the meeting at Munich on June 15. A number of G2 and G3 races are on the schedule, including the German 1,000 Guineas at Dusseldorf on June 7. Racing is also taking place in Sweden and Denmark.
French racing took place without public admittance before the March 17 shutdown. A similar behind-closed-doors approach will be in place for any resumption in May – though France Galop stressed that any restart remains “subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the measures taken by the government regarding the gradual exit from confinement”.
Alongside LeTrot, trotting’s governing body, France Galop said stringent security measures would be enforced to limit the number of people on course.
”When racing resumes, France Galop and LeTrot’s main priority is to protect the health and safety of the people involved in the organisation of race meetings,” said the France Galop statement.
“These race meetings will be run in camera (behind closed doors) for as long as necessary and in the strictest conditions, as was the case in the final days leading to the suspension of horse racing in France.”
“Race meetings behind closed doors will be subject to very strict specifications. For example, only the trainer, the jockey or driver and one lad can accompany and look after a horse declared to run in a race.
“Personnel in charge of the organisation and regulation of horse racing will also be limited to the strict minimum.”
A new fixture list will be published in the near future, with the authorities “placing a strong emphasis on finding a suitable balance between the different divisions which ensure the success of the French racing and breeding industry”.
• Find out more about French horse racing at the France Galop website