Anthony Van Dyck (far side) wins a thrilling Derby last year
© Photo Healy Racing
The first four Classics of the 2020 Flat campaign in Britain will be pushed back until later in the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns both Newmarket, which hosts the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, and Epsom, the home of Derby and Oaks, has announced the fixtures will not take place on their scheduled dates in May and June.
The Qipco-backed Guineas meeting was due to take place on May 2 and 3, with the Investec Derby Festival following on June 5 and 6, but both meetings will now be rescheduled “once racing has resumed in Britain”.
A statement from JCR said it “is looking to provide participants with the opportunity to ensure their horses are in peak condition with preparation races and adequate spacing” between the Classics, and is now in talks with the British Horseracing Authority, participants and other key stakeholders, to work out possible new dates.
Amy Starkey, who is responsible for Newmarket as JCR’s East Regional Director, said: “With less than a month until the Qipco Guineas Festival, trainers need to know whether to step up preparations for their Guineas horses or put that on pause for a later date.
“The future is too uncertain at the moment and there is no opportunity for any preparation races before such important contests for the 2020 Classic generation.
“Therefore we feel now is the right time to take the decision to cancel the Guineas Festival and turn our attention to determining, in conjunction with the British Horseracing Authority, participants and stakeholders, the earliest possible opportunity to reschedule 2000 Guineas and the 1000 Guineas.”
Phil White, who runs Epsom as London Regional Director, said: “Following consultation with our many event stakeholders and in order to comply with current government guidance, given the unique nature of the Downs as a public space, sadly it is not practical to stage the Investec Derby Festival on June 5 and 6.
“We are now working with the sport to explore our options to reschedule, at minimum, the Derby and Oaks, as part of delivering the 2020 Classic programme for three-year-olds.
“We thank all involved for their pragmatism and patience as we work this through together.”
Ruth Quinn, who is the BHA’s director of international racing and racing development, believes it is important to provide “opportunities for the horses most likely to define the future of the thoroughbred breed”.
She said: “As a sport we have a responsibility to safeguard the staging of our Classics, and to position them within a sensible, balanced schedule of complementary events wherever possible.
“We will continue to work together to deliver the optimal outcome within these unprecedented set of circumstances.
“We are developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered in these challenging times. Naturally one of the key priorities is the staging of the generation-defining races.
“The plan will adapt depending on when racing recommences, but will aim to ensure that we provide suitable opportunities for the horses most likely to define the future of the thoroughbred breed if at all possible.”