Ruby Walsh: Don’t hold your breath on International runners when Irish racing resumes in June

The Paddy Power Ambassador says June 8th is the best result Irish racing could have hoped for as we start to slowly exit lockdown.

Ruby Walsh Bellshill horse


It’s great that Irish racing will resume on June 8th and the industry racing should be delighted with that start date.

The framework for the pathway to resuming some sort of normality during this Covid 19 pandemic is pretty clear from the Irish government. Yesterday (Monday) was the first phase and June 8th is the second phase.

This is going to be a phased reopening from lockdown.



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Some people were talking about horse racing coming back a little earlier than phase two (June 08), but the phases are three weeks apart to allow enough testing and contact tracing to be done, to keep the virus under control. That’s why we will exit lockdown in phases.

It should be easy to keep the social distancing protocols in racing as we did it before when Irish racing temporarily went behind closed doors. It’s good economically,  too.

Naas was the obvious starting place considering that they already had a meeting on that date. It’s a good track and I’m glad that they have pushed the Irish Guineas at the Curragh back to June 12 and 13 to be the feature event in Irish sport that weekend. That is a great idea.

Leopardstown follows on Sunday June 14 and there could be a couple of good races on that card as well, like Derby Trials and maybe the Saval Beg Stakes too.

Some will have wanted the Irish Guineas to be run a bit earlier, but in this climate, is travelling for Group 1 races going to be manageable? When you take into account the quarantine requirements of staff, jockeys and trainers, how difficult is it going to be to go to the UK?

It’s going to be very hard.

I’m not sure we’ll get the International runners that many will wish for. Let’s take Britain’s Champion Flat trainer John Gosden as an example.


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Is John Gosden going to send two members of staff to Ireland on June 1st, for a runner in the Irish 2,000 Guineas on June 13? The staff will have to be in quarantine here for two weeks before it to look after the horse.

If he does that, then the same two members of staff will have to quarantine for two weeks in England when they go home.

It might actually be easier for the likes of Aidan O’Brien or any other Irish trainer to send staff to Newmarket. The horses can come home, but the staff can then move on to Royal Ascot in mid June and look after whatever other runners the yard may have running there.

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I’m sure they’ll be looking into every angle as to how to do it best.

Logistically, I’m just not sure that it will be as easy and straight forward as some people think. In the longer run, as things progress and open up more, the racing pattern schedule could be back in sync with International participation, come York’s Ebor meeting in August.

Right now though, quarantining for those travelling with racehorse’s to another jurisdiction is going to be a big thing. I’m not certain that there will be as many International runners in these early contests, as people might hope for.

Controlling the coronavirus is more important than the short-term international participation in Flat racing’s big races.

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What do you think?