Racecourse dealt blow as hopes to resume are dashed

Bosses at the East Lothian track had hoped to hold races behind closed doors on Saturday, June 6.

Musselburgh Racecourse: Bosses had hoped to hold behind-closed-doors races next month. Musselburgh Racecourse
Musselburgh Racecourse: Bosses had hoped to hold behind-closed-doors races next month.

Musselburgh Racecourse has been dealt a hammer blow after the British Horseracing Authority opted not to include it in early June fixtures.

Bosses at the East Lothian track had hoped to hold races behind closed doors on Saturday, June 6, as the industry looks to restart under restrictions.

Ground staff at the town’s award-winning racecourse, who have been furloughed, were expected to temporarily resume work this month to prepare the track for the anticipated fixture.

And East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill added his voice to a letter to Scottish sports minister Joe FitzPatrick, urging him to allow Scotland’s racecourse to host fixtures as soon as possible.

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Bill Farnsworth, general manager, was due on Monday to bring a report to Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee (MRAC), which oversees course governance, setting out hopes of a restart in early June.

However, the BHA released its provisional fixture list for the restart on Thursday and all the racing proposed is in England.

The BHA said that if Government restrictions eased at the end of the month, it intended to start behind-closed-door racing at Newcastle on June 1 with 18 meetings at seven tracks planned for the first eight days of racing.

After a single meeting on June 1, there will be at least two meetings each day with three – one each in the north, south and midlands – scheduled from Saturday, June 6 to Monday, June 8 inclusive.

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There will be no regional restrictions on runners competing at any meetings.

Mr Farnsworth had hoped Musselburgh would be allowed to take part in the behind-closed-doors fixtures in June after pointing out how the industry was ready to go.

He said: “If horseracing resumes in June, we hope to stage Musselburgh’s scheduled fixture on Saturday, June 6;  but if the advice is that June is too early to stage horseracing in Scotland, we will wait until for the appropriate time and for the green light from the UK and Scottish governments.”

Horseracing returned in France this week giving hope to trainers that Britain will not be far behind.

The joint letter to Fitzpatrick – signed by MacAskill along with MPs Allan Dorans, Angela Crawley and Pete Wishart, who represent racecourses in Hamilton, Ayr and Perth – urged a quick restart to racing when safe to do so.

It said: “Racing finds itself in a unique position compared to other Scottish sports in that our equine athletes, cherished so highly by those in the industry, have remained in training during the pandemic and will therefore be able to come back on shorter notice than the human athletes in other sports.

“When it is safe to do so, a return to racing is the best way of getting the economic cogs of the industry turning once more, and kickstart the benefits to the Scottish economy that horseracing brings, even in a behind-closed-doors environment.

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“Therefore, we ask that you please accelerate your talks with Scottish racing to ensure that a risk-managed return can take place as soon as possible and that a return to racing behind closed doors in Scotland does not get unduly delayed compared to the rest of the United Kingdom.”

By Local Democracy Reporter Marie Sharp

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