Ireland's attempt to continue running behind closed doors during the coronavirus crisis ended abruptly on Tuesday, when Leo Varadkar, the country's prime minister, announced that all sporting events would be canceled as of Wednesday as part of other measures to control the spread of the virus. . The country's bookmakers will also be closed.
Ireland has organized a meeting every day behind closed doors since Friday, after Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), which runs the sport to the north and south of the border, decided last week to continue running with strict measures to ensure the physical distance.
The Irish Flat in-season started in Naas on Monday, but the latest restriction, which is due until April 19, will mean the cancellation of the Irish Lincolnshire at the Flat this weekend and the Irish Grand National meeting at Fairyhouse in Easter weekend on April 12th and 13th. The outlook for the five-day Punchestown festival, the climax of the Irish jumping season, due to open on April 28, also looks increasingly bleak.
Ireland was the only major nation in Europe that still held meetings after the BHA decided to suspend the British program until at least May 1 last Tuesday. France, which has been running behind closed doors since the beginning of March, suspended all meetings until mid-April the previous day.
South Africa, which has also been holding regular closed-door meetings for the past few days, also announced on Tuesday that races in the country will end from Friday for at least three weeks.
"Everyone has to do their job," said Gordon Elliott, coach of Grand National's double winner, Tiger Roll, on Tuesday. "If we come back after a month, it won't be the end of the world. Everyone will have to tighten up and I hope we get over it well."
HRI released a brief statement on Tuesday, confirming that all races in the country would cease "as of midnight tonight, in line with the latest government guidelines on Covid-19".
He added: "The Horse Racing Ireland Board will meet tomorrow morning and issue a press release shortly thereafter."