Preparations underway to run Royal Ascot behind closed doors

Preparations underway to run Royal Ascot behind closed doors
Photo: Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire

If England's prestigious Royal Ascot meeting runs from June 16-20, it will do so behind closed doors, an Ascot Racecourse official announced Tuesday.

In a statement on behalf of the track, Chief Executive Guy Henderson confirmed the royal meeting will not be open to the public, further fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. "It may prove possible" to run without an on-track audience, he said, dependent on government policy and clearance from the British Horseracing Authority, which for now has shut down all racing.

"This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally," Henderson said. "Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can."

Racetrack officials will immediately begin refunding Royal Ascot ticket holders.

"We thank everyone in advance for their patience and understanding in completing this substantial task given the challenging practical circumstances of the current national lockdown," Henderson said.

"The pandemic will have a significant financial impact on our business in 2020, along with so many others. Nevertheless, Ascot racecourse will come through this crisis and we look forward to being able to welcome racegoers back when it is safe to do so.

"Meanwhile, our thoughts are with all those grieving and suffering as a result of COVID-19.  We offer heartfelt thanks to our wonderful NHS staff, key workers and volunteers for all their selfless dedication."

Royal Ascot has been bantered as a race spot for a number of American horses, namely those from the Wesley Ward barn including Kimari, winner of last Saturday's Purple Martin Stakes at Oaklawn Park. In recent years, NBC Sports network has aired the races domestically.

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