Provisional British horse racing schedule revealed with aim of 15 May start

Published on: May 4, 2020
Author: Jamie Clark
British horse racing schedule and revised Flat fixture list

A provisional British horse racing schedule – assuming a 15 May resumption – has been published for the first three weeks of the Flat season proper.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) drew up a revised Flat fixture list that keeps some key Listed and Group races.

It is unlikely that the traditional venues where these events are held will host the action, however.

If the British horse racing schedule is to gain government approval, then it is more than simply a case of staging cards behind closed doors.

Venues involved must be self-contained, so that means using racecourses with hotels. The Arena Racing Company (ARC) has such facilities among the tracks it runs, most notably at Lingfield and Newcastle.

Despite that being the initial phase of resuming the sport, Royal Ascot intends to remain in its advertised dates of 16-20 June with no public in attendance.

Outgoing BHA chief Nick Rust has attracted criticism for his approach, but does not expect horse racing to get special treatment from the government.

Unlike neighbours France and Ireland whose racing industries are classed as being under the ministry of agriculture, this falls under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the UK.

“We can be one of the first [sports] to go,” Rust said. “But we don’t want to make the case ahead of public opinion.

“We are saying we’re ready when you’re ready, [and] when the public health advice is ready.”

What the revised British horse racing schedule looks like

Naturally, not all black type races have been saved from the usual programme in the revised British horse racing schedule published by the BHA.

Notable absences from the Flat fixture list include events from Chester’s May Festival and other Classic Trials held at Lingfield.

The absence of the latter is particularly strange, given the course’s suitability for hosting horse races in the initial phase.

Lingfield’s two Classic Trials produced the winners of The Derby and The Oaks at Epsom Downs last season.

Nine Group 3 races and two Listed contests are proposed for the first weekend of the new British horse racing schedule – 23 and 24 May. Classic Trials usually held at Newbury and Newmarket are all preserved.

The Craven Stakes and Greenham Stakes are contested by 2000 Guineas hopefuls, while the Fred Darling and Nell Gwyn are for three-year-old fillies aimed at the 1000 Guineas.

There will be just two weeks between the Trials and Guineas Weekend which is now set for June 6-7. That is less of a gap than usual.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend of the new Flat fixture list, three Royal Ascot trials take place.

These are the 2m Sagaro Stakes for stayers, 6f Pavilion Stakes for three-year-old sprinters and the 1m Paradise Stakes for older horses.

Two Group 3 contests usually at Sandown Park for four-year-olds and up, the Aston Park (1m 4f) and Brigadier Gerard (1m 2f), also make the cut.

There is a nod to older fillies and mares too with the 1m Conqueror Stakes (Goodwood) and 1m 4f Pinnacle Stakes (Haydock Park) included.

Lockinge Stakes saved by Flat fixture list

Provisional British horse racing schedule revealed with aim of 15 May start

There were major doubts about the first Group 1 of the annual British horse racing schedule, the 1m Lockinge Stakes at Newbury for older horses, taking place this year.

It has been kept in the programme, though. This headlines the second weekend of the provisional Flat fixture list on 30-31 May.

The Classic Trials usually run at York during the Dante Festival could also take place on these dates now. These include the 1m 2f Dante Stakes and Musidora Stakes for fillies.

The 1m 6f Yorkshire Cup used by Stradivarius as a winning prep run for consecutive victories in the Ascot Gold Cup is another option for Flat stayers.

Not all Group contests from that midweek Dante meeting have been saved, however. The Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes over 6f is another casualty of what looks like a less varied programme for sprinters in the run-up to Royal Ascot.

Haydock’s Temple Stakes – also a Group 2 – is missing from the British horse racing schedule too.

The options for sprinters are the Group 3 Palace House Stakes (Newmarket) or the Listed Cecil Frail, usually over the same course and distance as the Temple.

Besides that and the 7f Group 3 Spring Trophy over, the final black type race on the last weekend of May is the 1m 2f Group 2 Middleton Stakes for older fillies and mares.

All of these races are likely to be made open to domestic runners only.

Guineas Weekend looking different

Guineas Weekend is delayed by more than a month in the revised Flat fixture list and now set to take place on the first weekend of June.

Supporting the two 1m Classic contests are Newmarket’s Derby and Oaks (Pretty Polly Stakes) Trials over 1m 2f.

There is also Group 1 action for older horses courtesy of the 1m 4f Coronation Cup. This looks like being held in its proper place in the British horse racing schedule.

The 1m 6f Group 3 Bronte Cup for older fillies and mares from York is also being run on the weekend of 6-7 June.

An effort has clearly been made to keep the pattern races over the Ebor Handicap distance on the programme with the total purse of that worth £1,000,000 this year.

No Heritage Handicaps are specified on the revised Flat fixture list as yet, but there is every chance of these events featuring later in the season.

Field sizes for the present will be limited to a maximum of 12 runners with only the most experienced jockeys riding.