Derby & Oaks organisers hope for behind-closed-doors date in July

Anthony Van Dyck won the 2019 Derby at Epsom Downs

Derby and Oaks organisers are looking to hold the Classic races behind closed doors at Epsom Downs on 4 July.

The date has been provisionally requested in a submission to Epsom and Ewell council, which also asks for all Saturdays in July and August to be approved for “flexibility”.

Permission for the venue to be fenced off and surrounding footpaths closed for 24 hours has also been requested.

The application will be considered on 12 May.

Racing in Britain is suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic and any resumption would depend on government approval.

Jockey Club Racecourses, which made the application to the local council, says security would also be put in place to host the Derby and other races during a single-day race meeting.

It added that if the application was not passed then “we believe that the races could not and would not be staged at Epsom in 2020” and “would have to be held elsewhere”.

It added: “This would obviously be hugely disappointing from a racing and breeding perspective but also for Epsom as a Borough.

“If we are unable to gain permission to race behind closed doors at Epsom, it is probable that the entire Epsom fixture list for 2020 is in jeopardy. This will have significant commercial and reputational consequences to the racecourse and local training community.”

Analysis

Frank Keogh, BBC Sport

The Derby is one of British sport’s great institutions, held at Epsom every year since 1780 with the exception of the two world wars when it took place at Newmarket.

As well as the top hats and glamour of the Royal Enclosure, it usually welcomes thousands of paying spectators in the grandstands, plus those who can gather for free on the infield, combining for a total attendance of well over 100,000.

It is also an important staging post for the breeding of thoroughbreds – only three-year-old horses take part, so you get just one shot at glory in Britain’s richest horse race, worth more than £1.6m.

British racing chiefs hope a rescheduled Oaks and Derby this year will take place a month after the postponed 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas have been run at Newmarket.

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