Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IAN FORSYTH
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IAN FORSYTH

Perhaps the words “treading water” best describe horse racing’s possible resumption. Unlike bullish comments on the UK restart from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and trainer William Haggas, the president’s address on Sunday left the sport in the dark.

Contacted by Business Day on Monday, Vee Moodley, CEO of the National Horseracing Authority, said: “We need to be patient for now. I am awaiting final level 3 lockdown regulations before I can comment.”

There is growing confidence that racing could resume in the UK on June 1 with a meeting on the all-weather track at Newcastle.

Brant Dunshea, chief regulatory officer for the BHA, said: “All the way through this process the government has recognised racing is different to other sports. The sport takes place in an outdoor environment and poses a lower level of risk to close-contact sports such as football and rugby.

“We cannot control the government’s decision making, but we’ve been working continuously to make sure we’re in a strong position. We’re very excited and positive we’ll be ready to go from June 1.”

Haggas, one of the UK’s top trainers, is a regular visitor to SA and trains a number of horses for this country’s owners including Investec co-founder Bernard Kantor.

Born into a textile family in Skipton in Yorkshire, 59-year-old Haggas is the son-in-law of legendary jockey Lester Piggott. His decision to send two of his top performers, Addeyebb and Young Rascal, to Australia proved a shrewd move as that country has been racing behind closed doors for most of the year.

Haggas targeted Kantor’s stayer Young Rascal for April’s Sydney Cup, with six-year-old Addeyebb aimed at the grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick. While Young Rascal failed to shape in his race, Addeyebb earned a big cheque by winning the QE II Stakes — much to the delight of Haggas, who watched the race from his home in Newmarket.

Commenting on the possible resumption of UK racing, Haggas said: “We’ve got to hold our nerve. It’s a trying time. Let’s just hope Brant Dunshea’s wishes come to fruition and we can get racing again.”

On Sunday UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was bombarded with questions about whether his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, broke lockdown laws, but he did manage to say that Britain is on course to move to phase 2 of lockdown.

“There is a little anxiety in Newmarket but a lot of excitement. The new Royal Ascot programme has been universally well received,” concluded Haggas.