Health secretary Matt Hancock ‘open’ to resumption of racing

Positive signs as ParisLongchamps prepares for blockbuster return

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP
Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has spoken positively about hopes the resumption of racing in Britain might not be too far away following its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The last meetings to take place in Britain were at Wetherby and Taunton on 17 March, both behind closed doors.

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The British Horseracing Authority has been making plans for a return when Government is approval is given, with meetings to take place on the Flat and behind closed doors. Two high-profile weekends have been pencilled in for Classic trials at the end of May, with the Guineas meeting set to take place on the first weekend in June, should a “best-case scenario” come to fruition.

Asked about calls to allow Premier League football again next month, Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I’m absolutely open to that and horse racing, too.

“And, I know that both the Premier League and racing are working on how this might be doable in a safe way.

“But that safety has to be paramount.”

Racing has been given the go ahead to resume in France from Monday.

The first fixture will be behind closed doors at ParisLongchamp and a stellar cast of entries sees Earthlight, Victor Ludorum and Sottsass all feature for what looks set to be a blockbuster return to the track.

The sport across the Channel has also been suspended since 17 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a number of meetings having been held without spectators leading up to that date.

France Galop has been working towards a Monday’s resumption behind closed doors with four Group races scheduled for the opening afternoon.

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Earthlight and Victor Ludorum were both Group One winners for Andre Fabre last season and are among 12 possibles for the Group Three Prix de Fontainebleau over a mile.

Earthlight struck at the top level in the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes, while Victor Ludorum maintained his unbeaten record in the Jean-Luc Lagardere on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe day. Both colts are by the late Shamardal and represent Godolphin.

Jean-Claude Rouget’s Sottsass, winner of the French Derby and a fine third to Waldgeist and Enable in the Arc, is one of 13 given an engagement in Group Two Prix D’Harcourt.

The Freddy Head-trained filly Khayzaraan holds Classic ambitions this season and is set for the Group Three Prix de la Grotte, for which there are 16 contenders, including the once-raced Simeen from the Rouget stable.

The other Group race on the card, the Prix de Saint-Georges, has attracted 15 entries, among them Pascal Bary’s Gold Vibe, who was the first French-trained runner home in last season’s Prix de l’Abbaye.

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