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British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust has reiterated racing will be ready to resume as soon as it is safe and has defended the Cheltenham Festival.

Racing has been shut down in Britain since March 17, a few days after the four-day Cheltenham Festival attended by 250,000 people.

“As soon as we are clear in our daily discussions with government that we are able to return we will be ready to do so,” Rust told Sky Racing.

“When we have the right conditions we will be able to resume racing in as good a form as we can, which will be behind closed doors, will mean social distancing and is likely to mean there will be some restrictions on tracks and runners and where we race.”

Rust said the advice they had before Cheltenham was it was safe to hold the meeting.

“The weekend before Cheltenham we had a full Premier League football program, we had a Six Nations match at Twickenham, we had Crufts indoors during that week – we were being encouraged to keep up the positive message by running the Cheltenham Festival,” he said.

“All the government’s scientific advice, and indeed that of the chief medical officers within the BHA and RCA (Racecourse Association), was that based on all the government advice and based on where we were, Cheltenham could go ahead.

“Of course we thought about it a lot and the mood actually changed that week – I didn’t hear massive calls for people not to be racing at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

“Clearly by the end of that week things were starting to change, the government had its budget on the Wednesday and there was another statement from the Prime Minister on the Thursday and finally on the following Monday things changed a lot.

“You could see the mood in government had changed tremendously based on the evidence available to it, but based on the evidence from the government at the time it was the right decision for the Festival to go ahead.”

The lockdown measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak will be extended for at least three more weeks in Britain.

 
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