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how is epsom downs racing behind closed doors?


This year, the 241st running of the Investec Derby will take place in an unprecedented way. For the first time in its history the World’s Greatest Flat Race will be staged behind closed doors, due to the current COVID19 pandemic restrictions.


Here we look to answer your questions about how this unique version of the event will take place.

No, sadly the event for the first time in its history will not be open to the public in response to the government’s restrictions on mass gatherings due to the COVID19 pandemic.


However, the racing will be televised live for all to enjoy on free-to-air television on ITV main channel or subscription channel, Racing TV.

The UK Government approved the resumption of elite sport behind closed doors from 1st June, provided a range of important health and safety protocols were adhered to. British Racing had worked collaboratively to prepare for this return and has been staging events since that resumption date, all overseen by the sport’s independent governing body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).


The Jockey Club, which runs Epsom Downs Racecourse, has worked in conjunction with the BHA, the Epsom & Walton Down Conservators, who govern access to the Downs, and Epsom & Ewell Borough Council to enable the meeting to go ahead at the racecourse without a crowd present, on the rescheduled date of Saturday 4th July 2020.

Consent for the sport was given by the Government to resume behind closed doors from 1st June 2020. The racecourse has duly satisfied the governing bodies that it can meet all safety requirements in order to go ahead.


The Investec Derby and the Investec Oaks are of vital importance to the sport of horseracing as they form part of the 2020 Classic programme that also includes the 1000/2000 Guineas at Newmarket, which were also postponed and run in June. These races are significant to the entire racing and breeding industries, which support tens of thousands of livelihoods in the UK alone. A racehorse only gets one chance in its lifetime – at the age of three – to race in either the Investec Derby or the Investec Oaks, so it is pleasing this was not lost from the current generation.

The Derby Course is unique, and running the race at its rightful home provides all horses with the same historic and supreme test of the Thoroughbred that every generation has enjoyed since 1780 – other than during both World Wars.

In order to ensure the event is delivered safely behind closed doors, a section of the Downs will be closed for a 24hr period from 0001hrs to 2359hrs on Saturday 4 July. This is the minimum time required to secure the racecourse in the build up to and break down of the streamlined event, to ensure public and staff safety.


However, the wider areas of the Downs outside this area will remain open and accessible to the public to enjoy fresh air and exercise. Local trainers will be permitted to exercise their horses within the restricted area on the morning of the race meeting as usual.

Fencing and stewarding staff will be placed around the perimeter of the site, including at the various crossing points onto the Hill and surrounding areas.


The area that will be in use behind closed doors is defined on the map below. This is in order for the racecourse to control all access points, including roads and footpaths.

The Downs are private land owned by The Jockey Club. They are subject to an Act of Parliament, which provides the public with access to ‘air and exercise on foot’, but under the proviso that “the public’s use shall not interfere with the rights conferred upon (the racecourse) and the Levy Board, principally to hold race meetings and to train racehorses.” The Downs are where racing and the community have existed together for centuries.


The Conservators have provided approval on this rare occasion for the event to take place on a postponed date and for a section of the Downs to be temporarily unavailable to the public.


The area that will be in use behind closed doors is defined on the map below. This is in order for the racecourse to control all access points, including roads and footpaths, as defined under a clause that we may, “during the racing period, control access over the racecourse and paddock.”

In order for the event to take place safely and securely, Tattenham Corner Road will be closed off for vehicles and pedestrians from 0630hrs to 1900hrs on Saturday 4 July.

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