Wednesday, 13th May 2020
The Derby and The Oaks will remain at Epsom Downs this season after The Jockey Club’s plan to stage the Classics behind closed doors received local authority approval.
Normally speaking, the public have access to land around the racecourse. An Act of Parliament passed in 1984 grants them this.
When horse racing resumes in the UK, which won’t be until 1 June at the earliest, it will be without spectators. Epsom Downs proposes to host both 1m 4f Classic contests on a Saturday in July or August.
There is at this stage no dates for The Derby or The Oaks until the Flat season is up and running. The aim is to have the races “roughly six weeks” after the campaign begins.
Keeping the Classics at Epsom Downs poses a real challenge, however. Unlike other racecourses, the land around the track is not enclosed. A normal Derby day at Epsom attracts crowds of around 100,000.
No entrance fees pertain to the public land, so The Jockey Club asked for the creation of an exclusion zone. This will suspend public access to parts of the Downs for 24 hours around The Derby.
Only during the First and Second World Wars have the Epsom Classics been held elsewhere. The plans for this year’s Derby and Oaks involve a seven-race card.
However, traditional Derby Festival races such as the Coronation Cup and Epsom Dash won’t feature. The former, a Group 1 contest over 1m 4f for older horses, goes to Newmarket on Guineas Weekend this year.
The Epsom Dash, meanwhile, cannot be held because the first furlong of the 5f handicap sprint falls outside the exclusion zone.
Metal fences creating a perimeter around the entire racecourse are part of the plan. This will keep spectators off the land for the duration of Derby day.