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Epsom officials are exploring the feasibility and practicality of conducting a one-day Derby meeting behind closed doors.

Jockey Club Racecourses, the track’s owner, has submitted an application to Epsom and Ewell Borough Council to hold the Derby and Oaks on the same day in either July or August, along with restricting access to the site.

A provisional date of July 4 has been put forward, but the application also asks for flexibility, with a Saturday in July or August mentioned as no date has yet been set for a resumption of racing after the coronavirus shutdown.

While the course is owned by Epsom, there are public footpaths and bridle-ways and the application asks for access to certain areas to be restricted for 24 hours in order to meet the requirements for a behind-closed-doors meeting.

Temporary fencing and barriers along with additional security would form an exclusion zone, with JCR also outlining its ongoing dialogue with local police.

They have proposed five other races to be run in addition to the Derby and Oaks.

The application is due to be discussed at a council meeting on Tuesday.

“We are exploring the feasibility and practicality of staging the Investec Derby and Investec Oaks at the racecourse with no crowd present, given their importance to the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries,” a spokesperson for Epsom said.

“This is part of the racing industry’s resumption planning, which will be guided fully by the government, local authorities and delivery partners.”

David Gulland, Liberal Democrat councillor for Epsom and Ewell, says plenty of consideration needs to be given to the health issues surrounding the meeting.

“Under normal circumstances, the whole racing event is fantastic news and good for the local economy. If it’s behind closed doors though, I’m not sure it will be the same occasion,” he told BBC Radio.

“Normally you get about 100,000 people coming down so it’s fantastic for the pubs and restaurants, but a closed event will not quite be the same thing.

“It (the Derby) is important and I’m really pleased the Jockey Club is trying to find an innovative way of doing it, but we need to think about the wider issues, obviously the health aspect.”

He also believes the plan would be workable, although communication with local residents would be key to gaining support.

“What we don’t want is the appearance that it’s happening to suit a small sector of the community,” he said.

“Also, we don’t want to encourage people to gather in groups when it’s not yet healthy to do so.”

 
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