Racing chief hints at early return despite sport facing criticism for staging Cheltenham Festival


‘We should be proud to be the first sport to go ahead’: Racing chief hints at early return despite sport facing criticism for staging Cheltenham Festival before coronavirus shutdown

  • Martin Cruddace claims the sport should be ‘proud’ if it is the first to re-start 
  • Lingfield and Newcastle are part of the planning for an eventual resumption
  • Lingfield and Newcastle’s on-site hotels are central to a resumption plan 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Racing has faced criticism for staging the Cheltenham Festival just before the coronavirus shutdown, but the sport should be ‘proud’ if it is the first to re-start when restrictions are eased by the Government.

That is the view of Martin Cruddace, chief executive of the Arena Racecourse Company, whose tracks at Lingfield and Newcastle are part of the planning for an eventual resumption behind closed doors.

Cruddace said: ‘We should be proud to be the first sport to go ahead. We are not a contact sport. We need 100 people at the racecourse.

Racing has faced criticism for staging the Cheltenham Festival just before the shutdown

‘We will be delivering an entertainment into people’s homes, money to the Exchequer and money to the Levy. We are always going to have to accept criticism. But provided we always maintain that our first priority is the public health emergency, which it is, we should be proud to say we are a sport that has spent two months on the most detailed plan possible that minimises risk to the NHS and the wider population.

‘A lot depends on what the Government says. If you believe on May 7 there will be some loosening of the restrictions, all of us should be ready within five to seven days of that date to race.’

Both Lingfield and Newcastle’s on-site hotels are central to them being part of a resumption plan.

Cheltenham Festival organisers have defended their decision to go ahead with the meeting

Cheltenham Festival organisers have defended their decision to go ahead with the meeting

Cruddace, speaking on Racing TV, added: ‘My personal view is we will have a position where we are in a heavily quarantined first phase. We would have to make sure that the movement of people is kept to a minimum.

‘The first phase should involve a quarantined, sanitised zone at a racecourse which can put on regular fixtures where the participants do not have to leave that sanitised zone.

‘We have to be in a position where we can meet every possible objection. Those who unload the horses and who look after the horses in the stables may be part of the participants who are quarantined. Then those who bring the horses to the racecourse do not have a chance to infect the quarantine zone.’

Meanwhile, jockey Jamie Spencer has had an operation on a broken hip after an accident while riding out for trainer David Simcock on Friday.



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