France Galop remains hopeful of resuming racing behind closed doors in May.
French racing was staged without spectators last month before France Galop announced a suspension of meetings between March 17th and April 15th due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While French President Emmanuel Macron has extended the country’s lockdown until May 11th, France Galop and LeTROT, which is the governing body of trotting racing, are “in discussion with the government authorities to explore the possibility of a return to racing behind closed doors as quickly as possible”.
A statement from France Galop said: “Before horse racing was suspended, the industry had shown its ability to organise meetings behind closed doors whilst maintaining an excellent level of risk prevention of spreading the virus.
“In the context of racing behind closed doors, access to the racecourse had been strictly limited to a minimum of professionals who are essential for the organisation of a race meeting.
“Also, since the beginning of the lockdown, training activities at the different training centres in Paris and in the provinces, have been carried out in the strictest conformity with the instructions and rules of social distancing.”
Funding for the sport is one issue that is under discussion, with PMU cafes, the main betting locations in the country, closed and unlikely to open when initial restrictions are lifted.
The statement continued: “According to the President’s latest speech, it is however understood that a return to horse racing in France will not mean that all the PMU betting points will be operational. Only a part of them (tobacco shops) will be operational, which means reduced revenues for the industry.
“The implications of this configuration are currently being examined and discussed with the public authorities. Next Tuesday, the presidents of the parent companies and of the PMU will meet with Didier Guillaume, the Minister for Agriculture and Gérald Darmanin, the Minister of Public action and Accounts.
“In the meantime, France Galop and LeTROT teams are finalising a racing programme of major meetings for the month of May, from the date of the re-start, as decided in agreement with our supervisory authorities.
“This racing calendar will be published as soon as possible so that racing professionals can get their horses ready for when racing resumes.”
BREEZE UP SALE DELAYED
On Wednesday afternoon the Arqana sales company announced that its breeze-up sale at Deauville, scheduled for May 8th-9th, would be postponed.
Arqana chief Eric Hoyeau said: “Our endeavor is to offer the best possible working conditions for vendors and buyers despite the unprecedented level of uncertainty we are all confronted with. The early June slot (2nd-3rd or 3rd-4th) remains an option.
"However, there is a risk that hotels and restaurants in Deauville might still be closed as well as travelling restrictions to and within Europe remaining in force. Therefore, and depending of how the situation pans out over the next few weeks in France and abroad, we are alternatively considering merging the Breeze Up with the Summer Sale, which would then expand from June 29th to July 4th, or postponing it to a later date in July.
"Regardless of the date, we will offer online bidding solutions, which we are adapting to the situation. We will also make as much information as possible available remotely to buyers.
"Looking ahead, the August Yearling Sale currently remains on track to take place on August 15th-17th, followed by the V2 Yearling Sale on August 18th.
"However, we are very aware of the trying times all industry players are faced with and how fast things are evolving. Should it become necessary, we will adopt a very outside-the-box approach to come up with the best possible date and logistical organization for our flagship sale.
"Once again, I would like to extend my deepest compassion and support to all those who are suffering personal or professional hardship. More than ever, we are all living in hope.”