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Horse racing set to shut down as government says all sporting events must stop

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A view of a social distancing footpads for jockeys and trainers in the parade ring prior to racing at Clonmel Racecourse in Clonmel, Tipperary. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

A view of a social distancing footpads for jockeys and trainers in the parade ring prior to racing at Clonmel Racecourse in Clonmel, Tipperary. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

A view of a social distancing footpads for jockeys and trainers in the parade ring prior to racing at Clonmel Racecourse in Clonmel, Tipperary. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Horse racing in Ireland is set to be put on hold after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that all sporting events must stop as part of new measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Horse Racing Ireland held a meeting last week to determine the sport's short-term future, after which it was decided to continue racing behind closed doors with only key personnel allowed on the track.

Jockeys were forced to leave the track after their racing was finished for the day, and had even been waiting in their cars between races.

In a press conference this afternoon, the Taoiseach said that all sporting events must be postponed - even if they are behind closed doors. The latest measures come into effect from midnight and will be in place until at least April 19.

Horse Racing Ireland confirmed in a statement that racing will be put on hold.

"Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) confirm that racing will cease in Ireland as of midnight tonight as per the latest Government guidelines on Covid-19.

"The Board of Horse Racing Ireland will meet tomorrow morning (Wednesday) and will issue a press release soon after."

Last week, HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh acknowledged the "rapidly changing situation" and their regular communication with the Government in their decision to continue racing.

“Racecourses by their nature offer opportunities for social distancing that few other workplaces can. Nothing in Irish life is as it was a week ago, and in the same way, these are not race fixtures as we previously knew them," Kavanagh said.

"They are big open-air sites with very few people present and nobody on site if they are not involved: once a jockey or trainer has finished their business for the afternoon, they are required to leave.

"Furthermore, we have carried out risk assessments according to each individual racecourse facility, and some fixtures may be subject to greater restrictions and limitations to ensure social distancing is easily achievable and maintained."

Online Editors