Behind Closed Doors Racing

Summary of what racing behind closed doors will look like

Q What is racing’s resumption plan? And how will you be doing so safely?

Racing is a £4 billion industry that employs over 20,000 people in the rural economy and it is important that we are able to safely resume to protect the thousands of livelihoods that depend on the sport. Therefore the sport has worked hard to put in place a risk-based approach that allows us to do that safely and responsibly.

Thirsk races is planning to safely return behind closed doors with Government approval on the afternoon of Tuesday 16th June as part of a phased return for the sport.

Additionally, Thirsk has further race meetings scheduled on: Monday 22nd June, Monday Evening 29th June, Monday 6th July, Wednesday Evening 29th July and Sunday 9th August. ,

In doing so we will be introducing strict protocols designed to safeguard everyone's health and wellbeing and to ensure that racing can take place safely behind closed doors (BCD).

These measures have been developed in consultation with government and public health officials to help keep those attending safe and include:

  • a three stage health check that all attendees on courses will have to pass;
  • strict social distancing measures on course; and
  • detailed new guidance for all participants on how they will have to do things differently on course in order that we can race safely and mitigate any risks.

Racing is only permitted strictly BCD, therefore only pre-authorised personnel with a working role at that specific race meeting will gain entry, and that is provided that they pass the health screening upon arrival. Nobody else will be admitted, whatever their connection with racing or with somebody authorised to attend the race meeting might be.

Those attending the race meeting, including those travelling with horses, are required to leave home or their racing yard and travel directly to Thirsk Racecourse without stopping anywhere on route, except in an emergency. Similarly they are expected to return home in a similar fashion.

There will be no social interaction between those in attendance at the racecourse; no bars or restaurants will be open and there will be NO CATERING provided for anyone on site. Bottled water will be freely available, but ALL PARTICIPANTS must bring whatever refreshments they require for the whole of the race meeting.

For those working at an event, including officials, racecourse staff and participants, the implementation of these guidelines ensures that racing will take place in a more controlled environment than most day-to-day activities

Health screening and admittance onto racecourses

Q. Who will be able to attend a racecourse?

Access to the racecourse will be extremely limited and only authorised personnel will be able to attend. The names of those planning to attend on a given day must be submitted in advance and if the name is not on the list, that individual will not be permitted entrance under any circumstances.

There is a three-stage health check that everyone will have to pass before they are allowed onto courses

Q. What are the screening steps everyone will have to go through?

1. First of all everyone will have to complete an online educational course on Covid-19.

2. Each person will have to complete an online health questionnaire within the 7 days prior to them going to a racecourse. This will expire after 7 days and will have to be repeated on a rolling 7-day basis to monitor their health.

3. On arrival at the racecourse, ALL attendees will be required to answer further questions, as well as having their temperature recorded twice. This will be done in a secure area from people’s vehicles. If on both occasions their temperature exceeds 37.8°C, they will not be allowed onto the course and will have to head home immediately and take further medical advice.

It is only when someone has successfully completed all three steps that they be allowed to onto the racecourse and given their accreditation showing that they have successfully completed screening.

Social distancing

Q. What social distancing measures will be in place on course?

Racing is an outdoor activity taking place across an extensive site. The vast majority of a race meeting can be run whilst maintaining social distancing guidelines and social distancing officials will be at every fixture to ensure these guidelines are maintained at all times.

We’ll be making sure that people on course maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible and in certain areas there may be specific demarcation of the 2-meters, such as in the jockeys’ changing rooms, the weighing room and in the parade ring.

There are a small number of activities such as legging up jockeys which will require individuals to be within 2m for a short period of time – but this will only be very brief and in these instances people will be wearing face coverings and will sanitise their hands straight afterwards.

Jockeys Changing rooms and social distancing

Q. How will you be keeping jockeys safe in the changing rooms?

We have a number of measures to keep jockeys safe on course including ensuring that there is social distancing in the jockeys’ changing rooms and that each jockey has a clearly denoted space of 2m which must be maintained. Thirsk Racecourse has provided additional changing room space for jockeys to achieve this.

In addition, the shower and sauna facilities will not be available to prevent any spray.

There will also be no catering on courses and jockeys will need to bring their own food and drink to the course with them, but bottled water will be provided.

Weighing in and out processes

Q. How will the weighing in and out process take place?

The weighing in and out process will be carried out as normal in the usual weighing room but with social distancing and access to the weighing room strictly limited to BHA officials, authorised racecourse staff, jockeys and valets only.

All equipment must be cleaned and disinfected prior to arrival on course and will be cleaned once more by the valets on arrival. All equipment must be in a clean, single (where possible) bag, clearly labelled with the name of the trainer, the horse’s name, and the race number and time.

There will be a series of clearly designated areas, in view of the Clerk of the Scales, where saddles, weight cloths, number cloths, etc, can be passed from jockeys to trainers or their representatives after weighing out.

Horse arrivals on course

Q. What is the process for horses arriving at the racecourse?

Racing already adheres to very strict bio-security measures but there will now be additional protocols in place.

ONLY staff with the appropriate accreditation will be permitted to enter the stable yard and as a general principle this will be limited to stable staff (or trainer/representative when accompanying the horse), equine welfare and integrity officers, vets and relevant racecourse staff ONLY. Trainers or their assistants will be generally be permitted access only where the racecourse adopts saddling in the stables.

On arrival horses will be taken to the specified area for the horse check-in where the horse’s microchip and identification will be checked.

Ideally, all horses will be saddled in the same area (i.e. stable box or saddling area of the parade ring. The trainer or their representative will retrieve equipment from the designated area (in or near the weighing room) and proceed to saddling area. After handling or transferring any equipment they will wash or sanitise their hands. When tacking the horse for the race, social distancing must be maintained by keeping one person on either side of the horse.

Parade ring and legging up

Q. What will be the procedures in the parade ring

Horses will parade in the Parade Ring as normal and the area is plenty big enough for adequate social-distancing. Unfortunately, for now, there can be no owners, sponsors or other guests allowed on the site and access to the Parade Ring will be strictly limited to those racing grooms leading-up the horses, BHA-officials, jockeys and trainers or their representatives. There will be no Best Turned Out awards or presentations.

Veterinary and medical personnel will station themselves outside the Parade Ring and only enter this area if there is an emergency.

Social distancing will have to be maintained and everyone in the Parade Ring must wear a face covering BEFORE entering. Legging up must be done as quickly as possible and those doing this should sanitise their hands after doing so.

Horse loading process

Q: What procedures are in place to ensure horses are safely loaded? Will the handlers themselves be safe?

To ensure the safety of participants, stalls handlers will be used for all races. Trainers have already been asked to audit their horses to prevent known unruly animals attending a day’s racing under current circumstances. A maximum of two handlers will attend to any one horse.

Face coverings will be worn by all handlers and they will sanitize their hands after handling each horse. Any handrails that are touched will be sanitized once the horses leave the stalls.

Post-race unsaddling

Q: What happens after the race when the horses are unsaddled?

After the race, jockeys will be directed to the unsaddling area where the horses will be met by their racing grooms.

Once each horse is secured the jockey will dismount and unsaddle the horse while stable staff will maintain as much distance as safely possible, including standing on the offside of the horse, if safe.

Access to the Winners’ Enclosure and unsaddling areas will be limited to one member of stable staff per horse and the trainer/representative.

Only the winner will enter the Winner’s Enclosure. Placed horses will all unsaddle in the usual unsaddling areas. Sadly there can be no presentations to the winners, but Thirsk Racecourse will send a memento on to the winning owners, along with our hearty congratulations.

Veterinary personnel will be close by to assist with cooling and any other issues.

Stable staff must wash or disinfect their hands as soon as possible after collecting the horse, which in most cases will be when washing down the horse after the race. Tap/bucket handles should be wiped down before and after use.

The horses will then be led back to the stable yard on the ‘one-way’ circuit, making their way along the outside of the track to the yard entrance, thus keeping the horse walk itself free for those horses heading from the yard to the saddling-up area.

Back in the yard the horses will be prepared for departure home

Leaving the racecourse

Q: When will people leave the racecourse how will this be managed to ensure safety?

On completion of their role, each individual should leave the racecourse as soon as practically possible. A one-way system will be in place, so individuals can return to their vehicle without crossing paths with others who are arriving. A hand sanitisation station will be provided on exit.

Individuals who finish at the same time should return to their cars either separately or observing social distancing.

All personnel should ensure that their departure has been logged on exit by racecourse staff and dispose of their wristband-accreditation at the exit point.

Any individual who has left the site must complete the arrival and screening procedures again prior to readmittance.

Personnel accompanying horses will follow the same procedure when leaving the stable yard and horsebox park.

If you have any questions about the resumption of racing ‘Behind Closed Doors’ we’ll do our best to answer them and if we can’t we pass the enquiry to someone who may be able to help. We can be contacted via email at:

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