London (AFP) - The winning owners of the Derby and the Oaks could be present this Saturday at Epsom after strict coronavirus restrictions were eased on Monday by the British Horseracing Authority.
Owners have been barred from attending racecourses since racing resumed on June 1 for the first time since its suspension on March 17.
Owners have been widely credited with keeping the industry afloat by keeping their horses in training and paying the fees.
The protocol robbed Queen Elizabeth II the chance of seeing her horse Tactical win at Royal Ascot this month.
"Racehorse owners will be able to start attending race meetings behind closed doors from Saturday 4 July in a safe and risk-managed way, under plans agreed by the Racecourse Association (RCA), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) and British Horseracing Authority (BHA)," the BHA announced in a statement.
Two test events are to be held at Southwell and Kempton on Wednesday.
"This will enable owners to experience racing behind closed doors and provide useful feedback ahead of the wider planned rollout from Saturday 4 July," the BHA said.
The measures only apply to English racecourses and a maximum of two owners per horse or owner's representatives will be permitted.
Owners wll be allowed on course 45 minutes before their horse runs, be restricted to owners only zones and not permitted to cross over into other areas -- they will have to leave the racecourse within an hour of their final runner competing.
The BHA warned that some racecourses would not be able to facilitate owners yet.
"As with our wider approach to resumption, the return of owners is predicated on a phased, risk-managed plan, which establishes infection control protocols that are essential for the safe continuation of racing during the ongoing COVID-19 situation," said Jerry Hill, the BHA's Chief Medical Adviser.
"These include pre-entry screening for owners and segregated areas to facilitate social distancing at no closer than two metres –- measures that prioritise the safety of our attendees, are consistent with government guidance for elite sports fixtures behind closed doors, and are supported by the UK Government."
The Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) welcomed the development.
"Owners contribute so much to this sport and it has been frustrating not to be on the track to see their horses run," said Charlie Liverton, ROA Chief Executive.
"Their patience and loyalty has been very much appreciated during this challenging period."