Irish racecourses have been permitted by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to increase the limit on spectators from 200 to 500, following a change in official government policy announced yesterday.
According to the Racing Post, HRI Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, has left it to the discretion of individual racecourses to decide whether or not to increase capacity limits.
Venues that do increase their crowd size will allow some general spectators to return, in addition to racecourse members, whilst racehorse owners have been allowed to attend since 7 June.
“It’s up to the racecourses and this will allow them a little more flexibility,” Kavanagh remarked. “The 200 has been adequate for owners, sponsors and racecourse needs, but the additional 300 is now a matter for each individual racecourse as to how they want to approach it.”
“We’ll continue to operate the protocols but will tweak them in certain areas. I think we’ll be looking to get some owners into the parade ring before races.
“As numbers going to the track increase, the temperature checking on the way in becomes more challenging – unless you’ve got multiple entrances like they had at the Curragh last weekend – but this is a positive step.”
The announcement follows the plans made by Galway’s Ballybrit Racecourse to allow 5,000 to attend the upcoming seven-day Galway Races festival, the racecourse’s Manager, Michael Maloney, admitted ‘there’s a long way to go to get it over the line’.
A crowd of 1,000 was allowed for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at Curragh racecourse, with the fixture functioning as a pilot test event, boosting the confidence of the Galway Races organisers.
Although he did not comment on the proposed Galway plans, Kavanagh did reference the Curragh event, saying: “It was clear at the Curragh on Saturday that more people could have fitted in there safely without having any impact [on adhering to protocols]. We recognise that it’s a graduated progress and that it’s a matter for government to dictate.”
He added: “The view, as we were told, was to run the trial, then review how it goes. We’ve submitted our review of that trial and have sought similar trials, maybe with a few more people, at some further meetings. That’s in the system.”