BHA chief executive Nick Rust is “very confident” racing will be able to showcase itself in the best possible way when the sport makes its return on Monday, with extensive health and safety measures set to be implemented to mitigate against Covid-19 infection.
No racing has taken place in Britain since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but with the green light from government granted on Saturday, Monday’s behind-closed-doors all-weather meeting at Newcastle will be the first time the new protocols for participants and racecourse attendees will be actioned.
These include pre-race health and wellbeing questionnaires being filled out, temperature screening, the use of face coverings, one-way routes around the stable yard and on-course facilities, partitioning of the weighing room and the requirement for social distancing, as well as limiting those who are able to attend to a minimum.
Rust said: “I feel very confident about us coming back first as we've been planning this for over ten weeks since racing was stopped.
“The professionalism of the people in the sport means I know we will be able to show the world how good we are in ensuring we can do this in a safe way.”
The systems have been drawn up using government guidance and advice from Dr Jerry Hill, the BHA’s chief medical officer (CMO), who has been involved in meetings with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Public Health England, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and CMOs from other leading sports.
Hill told Great British Racing (GBR): “I've been fortunate enough to work with CMOs from a range of sports, which has given us access through DCMS to Public Health England and to members of the Sage committee.
“That allows us to produce policy that's based on the best advice available at the time, and recognising our sport is different to others we have been able to bounce ideas off each other as a group CMOs so these ideas aren't just my ideas but ideas that are shared and peer reviewed by my colleagues to make sure they are safe and sensible.”
The importance the BHA is placing on the health of those admitted to the racecourse was made clear by Brant Dunshea, the organisation's chief regulatory officer who has also overseen the resumption of racing steering group during the sport’s shutdown.
As well as insisting those attending the races travel directly to and from the meetings without stopping, where possible, he added that horses would be withdrawn from racing if any member of the team who travelled with them gave concern about possible Covid-19 infection.
He said: “It's important to note if any individual does not pass the screening process, for example they answer a question which would give rise to a concern that the person has been exposed to or has the symptoms of Covid-19, or alternatively they have a high temperature, that person will not be admitted to the racecourse nor will anyone who has travelled with them. In that circumstance the horsebox would have to return home and the horses would be withdrawn.”
He added: “We've contemplated all the different things that happen on a raceday but also all the things that happen in the training environment before a horse comes to the racecourse, so we can ensure that any measure that are put in place are in accordance with government guidance but also fit for purpose.
“Of course in any situation you can't remove all risk completely, however we believe we have put in place risk-mitigating measures that will ensure we are providing the safest possible environment we can relate to the circumstances of our sport.”