Derby set to stay at Epsom after behind-closed-doors plans approved

Anthony Van Dyck won the 2019 Derby at Epsom Downs

The Derby is set to stay at Epsom this year, after councillors approved an application to stage the race behind closed doors on a Saturday in July or August.

The Jockey Club Racecourses asked for permission to hold the Derby and Oaks on the same day as part of a seven-race card, along with restricting access to the site.

When submitting the application, the Jockey Club had said that if it was not passed then the races “would have to be held elsewhere”.

Racing in Britain is suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic and any resumption would depend on government approval, which will not be before 1 June at the earliest, and further detailed planning with local authorities and the British Horseracing Authority.

While the Downs are owned by Epsom, there are public footpaths and bridleways and the application asked for access to certain areas to be restricted for 24 hours in order to meet the requirements for a behind-closed-doors card.

Delia Bushell, group chief executive of the Jockey Club, said in a statement: “We are working hard on a practical and deliverable plan to stage the 2020 Investec Derby and Investec Oaks at their traditional home, without a crowd and once racing is approved to resume by government.

“I’d like to express my sincere thanks to the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators for their backing today. These two Classics play a vital role in the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries, so it’s of great importance for them to be able to go ahead during this difficult period.”

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 what is usually Britain’s richest horse race, worth more than £1.6m last year, although prize money could fall this time.

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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