British racing continues to plan for a resumption behind closed doors on June 1 and Royal Ascot has unveiled new plans to extend their five-day running order for 2020.
There has been no racing in Britain since March 18, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the BHA are working towards next Monday’s return following news that the UK government will consider reinstating professional sport, in line with the Prime Minister’s phased plan to exit lockdown.
Royal Ascot, which will take place over five days from June 16 pending government approval, have added six extra races to this year’s schedule – taking it to 36 races for the festival.
The first four days will host seven races with the closing day – Saturday June 20 – set for a bumper eight-race card which includes a trio of Group 1s with the Coronation Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Hello Youmzain Antepost 8/1f).
The Buckingham Palace Handicap, which was scrapped in 2015 following the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup (Antepost 4/1 Fav – Pierre Lapin), will make its return and kick off the meeting in place of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.
Officials have also added a silver version of both the Royal Hunt Cup and Wokingham Stakes to facilitate extra runners.
Ascot have changed the running order of some of their premier events to provide a suitable programme for those horses being targeted at the fixture.
The King Edward VII Stakes and Ribblesdale Stakes will instead take place on the opening day of the meeting, to provide the maximum amount of time before the Investec Derby (Pinatubo 7/1 Antepost Fav) and Oaks on July 4.
However, the St James’s Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes have both been pushed back to the final day of the meeting to increase the time between these races and the Qipco 2000 and 1000 Guineas (Quadrilateral 3/1f Antepost), which are scheduled for the weekend of June 6-7 at Newmarket.
The Queen Mary Stakes , Norfolk Stakes and Coventry Stakes – races for two-year-olds – will also be run at the end of the Royal meeting to give them time to recover from their debuts.
No spectators are permitted to attend the Royal meeting due to the pandemic, but Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs Nick Smith is still optimistic about this year’s royal meeting.
Smith said: “We are most grateful to the BHA’s race-planning team for their assistance in framing the additional races for this exceptional renewal of Royal Ascot.
“We hope these extra opportunities will be welcomed by horsemen, broadcasters and the public at home. We are of course taking nothing for granted in terms of [the] government’s final approval to permit behind-closed-doors sporting events from 1 June.”
All 36 races will be aired on Sky Sports Racing, with ITV going live on its main channel from race two during the week and race three on Saturday.
Racing starts at 1.15pm in midweek and 12.40pm on Saturday to accommodate for the extra race.
The BHA have also announced that Glorious Goodwood (July 28-August 1) and the York’s Ebor meeting (August 19-22) will remain in their initially scheduled slots.
The first jumps fixture is set to take place at Southwell on July 1, while there will be just three meetings taking place a day, except on Saturday’s when there will be four from June 13 onwards. This will continue until the end of lockdown.
A full race programme for June is due to be published on Monday, May 25.