Racing Continues as Other Equine Sport to Resume
The main news for this week surrounds once again our old subject of corona virus. The good news is that instead of lamenting the loss of all equestrian sport, we can report firm plans for the start of most equine pursuits. Racing has been in the fore front of return to sport and with their stringent rules, so far, the return has been a great success. Now we have heard from other equestrian bodies planning to return to competition.
Last week, as horse racing was the only one of virtually all sporting activities running, we reported on the Newmarket Group 1’s including the first two classics of the year, The Guineas. In Ireland, racing has also returned now with their first two classics run at The Curragh over this weekend. In France, racing has continued, and now again at the Paris tracks following a brief cessation of racing there earlier in May. In the USA along with Japan, Australia and in fact most of the world, horse racing has now got back underway.
The Irish Guineas
Before we look at the various plans being put in place for the horse sports competition, we must mention the two Irish Classis run this weekend. The Guineas were staged in the evening to allow for maximum coverage from television. The Irish Two Thousand Guineas, first run in 1921 was run on Friday evening. There were eleven runners featuring six runners from the O’Brien stable and the favourite, unbeaten Siskin trained by Ger Lyons for Khalid Abdulla. Siskin was unbeaten but had not been seen on the racecourse since early August 2019 when he won the two year old Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, so the main doubt was whether he was rather ‘race rusty’.
This was a rough race with Royal Lytham taking the lead with a wall of horses close up behind. In the final two furlongs, there was a lot of bumping and boring with Siskin being shut in, unable to make his run. However, jockey, Colin Keane managed to push his mount forward, causing some of the fracas, and managed to break clear in the final 100 yards to take the race. This was the first classic won by either trainer or jockey. The second, third and fourth home were all trained by Aiden O’Brien; Vatican City, Lope Y Fernandez and Armoury respectively. Siskin is an American bred colt by First Defence out of an Oasis Dream mare.
In the Irish Thousand Guineas, there were fifteen runners due to go to post, but four were withdrawn which left eleven to face the starter. Four of those were trained by the O’Briens, two from Aiden and one each for his sons, Joseph and new boy to training Donnacha. Despite this, Albigna, trained by Jessica Harrington was the comfortable favourite having win three times last term including The Prix Marcel Boussac in France, (France’s top Group 1 for two year old fillies.) In the event, the Aiden O’Brien Peaceful was sent out in front and delivered the race from pillar to post. The other O’Brian trained horses were second, third and fourth. New boy Donnacha’s charge was second, Fancy Blue with father Aiden taking third with So Wonderful and Joseph was fourth with New York Girl. New York Girl did not help her chances as she dumped her rider at the start. The favourite Albigna sweated up heavily before the race and was well beaten into sixth place. An important footnote to this race was the winner’s sire is Galileo, who has sired, and now holds the record number of Group 1 race winners ever, worldwide. This win brings the total number of winners of Group 1 races sired by this extraordinary stallion to 85. He takes the record outright from Danehill.
Two Group 1 Races in France
At Chantilly, the Paris track was once again host to racing behind closed doors with a ten race card, two of which were Group 1s. In the first, the 1 mile 2 furlong Prix Ganay, there were just five runners in which Scotsass was the evens favourite and who dually obliged. He is trained by Jean Claude Rouget and was very nearly beaten by aptly named Way To Paris who came with a late run. In the second Group 1, another 1 mile 2 furlong contest, The Prix Alary, this time with seven runners, another J C-Rouget trained horse Tawkeel was the easy winner with Magic Attitude coming second. Both winners were ridden by Christian Demuro.
Other Equestrian Sports.
What about other equestrian activities and competition. The FEI have agreed to a restart of FEI competitions from July 1st. This is of course is subject to the differing rules and guidelines in each different country, although most of the rules are similar from one country to another, which does make things a little easier. Like the various racing authorities, the FEI have issued a long list of conditions and protocols which have to be followed at any venue. In their statement of 29th May, the FEI insist that a risk assessment has to be published and any decisions regarding the running of a competition has to be agreed with the local government approval. Failure to comply with the new rules will result in automatic FEI status removal from the venue. They expect these rules and covid-19 protocols to be in place for at least 12 months and probably nearer 24!
In the UK, British Eventing have announced that competition will start on 4th July. They are in the process of re-arranging the calendar. Burghley, Blair Castle and Blenheim remain cancelled and will not be re-instated in 2020. It is hoped that some of the classes which have already been cancelled will be able to be moved to other venues which intend to run. This should help, as a lot of CIC classes have been lost which has resulted in a shortage of competitions for the better horses. Barbary Horse Trials have been put back one week and will run, effectively behind closed doors.
British Showjumping are also to re-start on today on a phased introduction basis. They start with junior and school and club competitions initially while the calendar committee re-arrange a schedule for the rest of the year. There will be no full resumptions of classes until July 5th. Again, many new protocols have been put in place regarding the number of people allowed to go to a competition and each rider will have a designated horsebox parking area which they will also have to use as their area for tacking up etc. It is also strongly recommended and expected that all participants were face masks at all times. There will be no prize giving and results will only be available on line.
British Dressage has already announced the cancellation of all national and championship competitions together with all premier leagues, associated championships and summer area festivals. Not much top competition left! In a statement on June 2nd, BD announced a four stage plan and from early July, they are hopeful that stage three of their plan can be initiated. Again, like eventing, some cancelled classes are to be re-scheduled if possible at an even spread of venues to limit necessary travel. Resumption of competition is expected to start on July 4th.
The protocols for all resumption of equestrian sport are similar worldwide, so this should help with competitors wanting to cross boarders, particularly for any FEI events which are to be staged.