First four English Classics postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic
The first four of England's five annual Classic horse races, including the Epsom Derby, have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The final Classic, the St Leger at Doncaster which is traditionally run much later in the season, is scheduled for Sept 12.
In a separate development, organisers of June's Royal Ascot said the meeting would not "take place as an event open to the public".
Course owners Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) said the Guineas Festival at Newmarket - featuring the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas on the first weekend of next month - and the Derby Festival - highlighted by the Oaks and the Derby at Epsom on June 5 and 6 - had been postponed in response to the outbreak.
"We are now working with our partners in the industry to seek to establish a future date when the Investec Oaks and the Investec Derby races can take place, and will keep you informed on any future developments," JCR said in a statement.
As for the Guineas meeting, JCR east regional director Amy Starkey, responsible for Newmarket, said: "The future is too uncertain at the moment and there is no opportunity for any preparation races before such important contests for the 2020 classic generation.
"Therefore, we feel now is the right time to take the decision to cancel the Guineas Festival and turn our attention to determining, in conjunction with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), participants and stakeholders, the earliest possible opportunity to reschedule the 2,000 Guineas and the 1,000 Guineas."
The Classics, all for three-year-olds and run over differing distances, with the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks restricted to fillies, are some of the oldest and most prestigious on the global racing calendar.
With that in mind, the governing BHA said the races would be central in their plans, were they allowed to restart racing after suspending it last month in response to the spread of Covid-19.
"As a sport, we have a responsibility to safeguard the staging of our Classics, and to position them within a sensible, balanced schedule of complementary events wherever possible," Ruth Quinn, the BHA's director of international racing and racing development, told the BBC.
"Naturally one of the key priorities is the staging of the generation-defining races."
Another highlight of the English racing season is Royal Ascot, situated near Windsor Castle and long a favourite of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, a noted horseracing enthusiast.
Staging major events without spectators is a prospect officials across all sports are contemplating, following the spread of the coronavirus and Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson said: "It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing."
Pinatubo, owned by the Godolphin team bankrolled by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed and trained in Newmarket by Charlie Appleby, had been favourite for both the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby.
All racing in Britain was suspended on March 17 due to the spread of Covid-19 after the BHA was criticised for allowing that month's four-day Cheltenham Festival jumps meeting, which attracted more than 250,000 spectators, to go ahead. - AFP