It’s certainly strange times at the moment – not just for the horse racing world, but for every inch of the globe with the ongoing COVID-19 situation impacting the lives of every living person.
Industries all over the world have been impacted and with NO UK horse racing since March 17th, then fans of the sport of kings have been twiddling their thumbs ever since!
Yes, the racing over in Ireland continued for a bit after the UK racing lockdown on 18th March – in the Emerald Isle they raced behind closed doors until March 24th , but then the plug was pulled and they’ve been in the same boat at the UK ever since.
So, When Can The UK Horse Racing Be Expected To Return?
The quick and short answer is – it’s hard to tell.
It goes without saying that everything rests on how quickly the spread of the COVID-19 virus slows down in the coming weeks.
We’ve already lost high-profile meetings like the Aintree Grand National card, the Punchestown Festival in Ireland and the start of the new flat turf season has also been hit hard.
April's Newmarket’s Craven fixture has gone, while the first two Classics of the new season – the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas - have also been postponed for now – we’ll have to see if they re-schedule these two big 3 year-old races when (and if) racing resumes in the coming months. The talk is that these opening two English Classics of the season (Guineas) will be run in June and then the Oaks and Derby - generally follow-on races from the Guineas - to be held potentially on the same day sometime in July.
The Epsom Derby (6th June) and Oaks (5th June) are also in doubt, and are looking more likely to be staged in July now, while Royal Ascot have already gone on record as saying that if they do get the green light to race – it will be done behind closed doors regardless.
In short, there are so many unknowns that it’s impossible to try and put a date on when the racing might return – but one thing’s for sure, when it does it’s bound to be a slow process to get things back to normal, with the first batch of fixtures staged behind closed doors and with no crowds.
On a plus, there has been some more recent talks (23rd April) to suggest a return to the UK horse racing action in May, with races limited to just 12 runners and also only available to the more experienced jockeys. The thinking here is that the limited runners in the race, coupled with the better skilled piliots will mean a lesser chance of any accidents and, therefore, any further unnecessary strain on the NHS in the UK - we'll see how this suggestion pans-out.
Is There Any Betting On When The UK Racing Will Return?
Yes, there are a few firms trying to take a guess at when the UK racing scene might return. The Betfair Exchange have these markets on offer for their customers.
Will Racing Resume in June?
Will Racing Resume in July?
Will Racing Resume in August?
Will Racing Resume September or Later?
Will 2020 Royal Ascot Go Ahead?
Racing to return ON OR BEFORE JUNE 1ST is around 1/6 TO happen, and 24/5 to start from June 2nd or after - but the BHA have already stated that they will wait for government guidence on this and it's mostly likely to be a 'slow-burner' return, with racing most certainly to start up again behind closed doors for a period. With the messsge on the ease of the UK lockdown changing to a more cautious approach then the odds on this market are changing all the time. (Odds correct as 28th May 2020) - the odds suggest at the moment (28th May) that the UK racing is more likely to return after June 1st - we'll see!
While, it's 1/16 for racing to start before July 1st 2020 (71/5 not to happen).
They’ve also got a market on whether Royal Ascot 2020 will go ahead. At the time of writing (28th May) the betting is 5/1 NO and 1/6 YES, so another tight market but also one that at this stage favours the 2020 Royal Ascot card to NOT be staged – let’s hope those odds turn around the other way in the coming weeks! But, as already mentioned - if they do race - it will be behind closed doors.
Note: All odds listed are subject to change (correct 28th May 2020).
Finally, for those of you that don’t really care what racing you are having a punt on – then if you hunt around there are still a few countries racing. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the US hard, there are parts of America still staging racing, while Australia and Sweden are also racing.