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Racing fans are in for a treat

Top-class action coming straight at us

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OFF AND RUNNING: Runners in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday race in front of empty stands. Photo: Edward Whitaker/PA Wire

OFF AND RUNNING: Runners in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday race in front of empty stands. Photo: Edward Whitaker/PA Wire

PA

OFF AND RUNNING: Runners in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday race in front of empty stands. Photo: Edward Whitaker/PA Wire

There was an element of 'as you were' over the weekend as top-level horse racing returned in Britain ahead of sport's resumption in Ireland this afternoon.

It will be nearly 11 weeks since racing - which had kept going behind closed doors as the country shut down - finally bent the knee and fell in line with the country's closure.

Fans of the sport, however, can only be excited as to what's coming over the course of the rest of the season.

The authorities have jam-packed the campaign, which means there will be action almost every day, June 16 being the exception between now and August.

The Tattersalls Gold Cup and the first Classics of the season - the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas - are the only Group One contests to have new dates, with all other top-level races remaining in their usual slots in the calendar.

What it means is that we'll run the trials for the Guineas tomorrow at Leopardstown (as well as the Derrinstown Derby Trial) before the big races themselves go to post on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

Aidan O'Brien has already tasted Classic success this season as Love snared the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday, while British champion jockey Oisin Murphy picked up where he left off with a 2,000 Guineas win on board Kameko on Saturday.

The more things change the more they stay the same, eh?

No doubt master trainer O'Brien will have his three-year-old milers ready for the coming weekend as the top-class action really ramps up at The Curragh, but he will also be looking at the 'longer term' with some of the others for Royal Ascot.

The inverted commas are because the new-look Royal meeting kicks off just three days after the Irish Guineas, tomorrow week, behind closed doors of course.

After that whirlwind things then begin to settle down on the Group One front - for all of a week, because the following weekend we are back at The Curragh for the Irish Derby Festival!

As well as that, just to keep the appetite suitably whetted, there will be a meeting every day, or two per day a couple of times during those seven days.

Still with me? Good, because we haven't even gotten out of June yet.

Of course all of this is fantastic from a fan perspective as we have all been missing our racing - we've been pining for a return of sport in general - and the mayhem of this new schedule will be welcomed by stable staff, jockey, owners, trainers, ground staff and everyone else in the industry.

Granted, we can't be there to witness equine greatness in the flesh, despite the fact bizarrely that we will soon be allowed view the action from a betting shop.

We can only commend the authorities for putting the new calendar together, keeping all of the better races in the schedule and keeping the money coming in for what is a massive industry on these shores.

Racing is a €2bn per year business in Ireland, with 30,000 people employed in the sport, so its resumption cannot be underestimated even if prize money will be massively reduced and revenue from ticket sales, bars and hospitality will be non-existent.

So beyond that yearning we have all been feeling as the days and weeks have ticked by without live sport, this afternoon's resumption just means that little bit more to us all.

Following the announcement last Friday from the Taoiseach as we move back towards the old normal, sport's return really adds to that feeling that the winning post is in sight - in more ways than one.