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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Foreign Staff — Spectators are expected to return to stands for Aintree and Cheltenham next month after both racecourses fell to a Tier 2 of the Government’s lockdown restrictions.

Only outdoor venues in Tier 1 and 2 restrictions are allowed to bring in spectators on a limited basis following the end of the national lockdown in England – which was set to December 2 – and only 50% of the capacity is allowed to be admitted or 4,000 spectators in Tier 1 while Tier 2 is dropped to 2,000 or 50 percent – whichever is lowest.

Cheltenham could be said to have held one of the biggest sporting events with fans in Britain, which ended just a few days before racing was put on a temporary suspension on March 17 due to the pandemic, before a full lockdown was issued later in the same month.

Aintree, on the other hand, was set to hold the Grand National event back in April but it had already been put on hold before the racing suspension was imposed, and this lasted all through to the 1st of June when racing resumed only to operate behind closed doors.

On December 5, the National event will be returning at the Aintree, as both the Grand Sefton and Belcher Chase included on the course, with only a limited amounts of spectators allowed to witness the event, which is exactly the same way it will be for the Cheltenham’s International meeting on December 11 and 12.

Speaking to the media, a spokesperson for Jockey Club Racecourses for both tracks, said: “Based on the tiers the Government has confirmed today, Jockey Club Racecourses has 12 racecourses in Tier 2 and three in Tier 3. Therefore the bulk of our forthcoming meetings will be able to switch from behind closed doors race days to instead welcome up to 2,000 spectators, made up of racehorse owners and racing fans.

“Our focus now will be on delivering Covid-safe events, as we have done without spectators since the sport’s resumption in June and at the successful spectator pilot we staged at Warwick Racecourse.”

JCR will also be operating Haydock and it is one of the four venues set to entertain the spectators at the event on Wednesday, which is the first date after the current lockdown, and the audience will look forward to tipping a NAP while a race is being held.

Having had two events back in September, the racecourses have all been silent with no spectators for the last six months, now, however, Lingfield, Kempton, Ludlow, and Haydock will be hosting the events with few spectators as they are all located in the Tier 2 areas.

While Racecourses are not available in the Tier 1 areas, the ones located in the Tier 3 areas, like Newcastle, Leicester, Wolverhampton are still barred from allowing spectators.

Although Ludlow’s general manager Simon Sherwood is looking forward to welcoming back the spectators, he is expecting no more than 600 crowds when they eventually return.

He said: “We’re trying to work out the configuration of the course with a crowd back. It will be great for the atmosphere.

“We’ll tread cautiously, being one of the first back. We’re allowed 2,000, but realistically we’ll be welcoming our members back first and then a small amount of the public. I wouldn’t have thought we’d be pushing close to 2,000 – our capacity wouldn’t allow that anyway, with social distancing.

“For that meeting in December, we’d normally get around 1,500 to 2,000, but I suspect we’ll be having between 500 and 600.

A new code of conduct has also been set in place by The Racecourse Association for both the tracks and the spectators to follow.

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