Coronavirus: First four Classics postponed; Royal Ascot considers going behind closed doors

Racing’s first four Classics of the season – including the Derby at Epsom – have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Next month’s Guineas meeting at Newmarket, featuring the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, is off.

The Derby meeting in June, which includes the Oaks, is also affected, said Jockey Club Racecourses.

Meanwhile, organisers of June’s Royal Ascot say the meeting will not “take place as an event open to the public”.

“It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing,” said Ascot Racecourse’s chief executive Guy Henderson.

“We thank everyone in advance for their patience and understanding in completing this substantial task given the challenging practical circumstances of the current national lockdown.”

The total attendance over five days at last year’s Royal Ascot meeting was more than 290,000.

Talks are under way over rescheduling the big Classic races – which are solely for three-year-old horses – later in 2020.

The Guineas meeting was scheduled to take place on 2-3 May, with the Derby meeting on 5-6 June.

“As a sport we have a responsibility to safeguard the staging of our Classics, and to position them within a sensible, balanced schedule of complementary events wherever possible,” said Ruth Quinn, director of international racing and racing development at the British Horseracing Authority.

“We will continue to work together to deliver the optimal outcome within these unprecedented set of circumstances.

“We are developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered in these challenging times. Naturally one of the key priorities is the staging of the generation-defining races.

“The plan will adapt depending on when racing recommences, but will aim to ensure that we provide suitable opportunities for the horses most likely to define the future of the thoroughbred breed if at all possible.”

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