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First four English classic horse races postponed due to coronavirus

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London (AFP)

The first four of England's five annual Classic horse races, including the Epsom Derby, have all been postponed due to the coronavirus it was announced Tuesday.

Course owners the Jockey Club said the Guineas Festival at Newmarket, featuring both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas on the first weekend of May and the Derby Festival, which was due to stage the Oaks and the Derby run at Epsom on June 5-6, had both been postponed in response to the outbreak.

"We're sorry to announce that due to the current public health emergency, the Investec Derby Festival will not be staged on Friday 5th & Saturday 6th June," the Jockey Club said in a statement.

"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."

A similar statement was issued by the Jockey Club in respect of the Guineas meeting.

Meanwhile the governing British Horseracing Authority confirmed talks were underway about rescheduling the races, all for three-year-olds and long regarded as some of the most prestigious in racing worldwide.

"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.

"The plan will adapt depending on when racing recommences, but will aim to ensure that we provide suitable opportunities for the horses most likely to define the future of the thoroughbred breed if at all possible."

The St Leger, the fifth of English racing's five annual Classics, is traditionally run much later in the season in Doncaster, with this year's edition scheduled for September 12.

All racing in Britain was suspended on March 17 in response to the spread of COVID-19 after the BHA were criticised for allowing that month's four-day Cheltenham Festival jumps meeting, which attracted more than 250,000 spectators, to go ahead.

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