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Doors are closed to punters


HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh


HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh

Racing in Ireland is to take place behind closed doors starting at Dundalk today until March 29, under special measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Horse Racing Ireland made the announcement following Government advice on Thursday to contain the spread of Covid-19, including an instruction to limit external gatherings to less than 500 people.

After consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and with industry stakeholders, HRI has imposed a number of restrictions to ensure that fewer than 500 people are on site at each meeting.

The measures have taken immediate effect, with the situation being kept under review.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: "Public health is the number one priority and these restrictions will continue to be kept under constant review as we liaise with our colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Health.

"The restrictions which we are announcing today will limit social interaction, but will allow a vital rural industry to continue to operate, protecting livelihoods and jobs."

The restrictions include access being limited to essential service providers and industry participants. There will be no catering services, on-course bookmakers or Tote services provided. Only trainers with runners can attend with one owner and one groom per horse.

However, racing will be available to broadcasters as at present.

Leading Irish trainer Michael Halford gave the decision his full backing.

The Kildare handler said: "I think the main thing is we keep racing. We're very grateful that we are still racing and in the circumstances it makes sense.

"I'd agree with it 100 per cent."