The Jockey Club has lodged an application to the High Court seeking an injunction to prohibit acts intended to disrupt the Derby Festival, which takes place at Epsom on June 2 and 3.
The Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs alongside many other high-profile tracks, says it has been forced to take action after activists from Animal Rising continued to make it “explicitly clear” that they intend to breach security at the Surrey racecourse to stage a disruptive protest.
Last month, the Grand National at Aintree was delayed a little over 10 minutes by protesters, with attempts to disrupt the Scottish National at Ayr the following weekend thwarted by police and security staff.
Officials now fear planned disruption at Epsom may endanger participants, racegoers and horses – although they have stated they do not dismiss the right to peaceful protest and have offered Animal Rising an area near the entrance of the racecourse specifically for this purpose on Derby day.
The injunction sought would prohibit individuals from entering onto the racetrack and carrying out other acts with the intention and/or effect of disrupting the races. Such acts include intentionally causing objects to enter the racetrack, entering the parade ring, entering and/or remaining on the horses’ route to the parade ring and to the racetrack without authorisation, and intentionally endangering any person at Epsom Downs Racecourse during the two-day Derby Festival.
If the injunction is granted, individuals acting in breach of the court order could be subject to proceedings for contempt of court, which may lead to a fine and/or imprisonment.
A High Court hearing, which will rule on whether to grant the injunction, has been scheduled to take place this Friday (May 26).
Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, said in a statement: “In planning for the Derby Festival our number one priority will always be to ensure that the safety of all our equine and human participants and the thousands of racegoers who join us at Epsom Downs is not compromised.
“We respect everyone’s right to peaceful and lawful protest and with that in mind have offered Animal Rising a space for this purpose directly outside the racecourse during the Derby Festival.
“However, Animal Rising have made it explicitly clear that they intend to breach security and access the track itself in an attempt to stop racing taking place and it is our duty and obligation to do everything we can to protect everyone’s safety and prevent a repeat of the illegal and reckless protests we saw at Aintree in April.
“As such the decision to apply for an injunction is a course of action we have been forced to take and is the result of careful consideration following consultation with Surrey Police and a number of stakeholders. If successful, this would be just one of a range of robust security measures we are implementing to ensure the event can go ahead safely.
“We are proud to stage the Derby Festival and hope that the thousands of people who look forward to attending over the two days and the millions more watching at home and around the world are able to enjoy what is not only an important event for the sport but an iconic moment in the British summer and a celebration of the Thoroughbred.”