Newmarket is to continue with its limited capacity spectator pilot at its three-day Cambridgeshire meeting which begins a week on Thursday. There will be 1,000 people in attendance each day and racing will hope it is third time lucky.
There had been doubts about it going ahead after racing’s two major pilots, on the last day of ‘Glorious’ Goodwood and Doncaster’s St Leger meeting, had the rug pulled from underneath them at the 11th hour by the Government. Having cost £100,000 and £250,000 respectively for almost nothing, there is a feeling within the sport of twice bitten thrice shy.
The Newmarket decision was taken on Tuesday following discussions between the racecourse and the local public authorities and the course’s Safety Advisory Group. Though 1,000 people at Newmarket is a drop in the ocean given the size of the place, the course is keen to give its members something before the season is out.
A decision on whether or not the jump meeting at Warwick holds its intended crowd pilot on September 21 is the subject of continuing discussions with local stakeholders. It is considered the more meaningful of the two trials because 1,000 represents a much bigger percentage of a normal crowd for a small racecourse.
Amy Starkey, regional director of the Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “We’re pleased to be working closely with the local authorities to stage a limited spectator trial at the Rowley Mile over the course of the Cambridgeshire meeting.
“The racecourse is a vast, predominantly outdoor environment that could safely space out several thousand people, not just the maximum 1,000 who will be in attendance with stringent health and safety measures in place.
“The Newmarket will provide insights we can share across the industry and with other sports, so that when it is possible to welcome some level of spectators back to events more regularly in the future we will be well equipped to do so.”
Ayr’s Western meeting which begins on Wednesday will do so with owners, the backbone of the sport, reduced to two per horse with a maximum of 200 in total. Hitherto, Scotland has allowed six owners per horse. That should be fine on Thursday when there are 100 runners, but it could be problematic on Saturday when the Ayr Gold Cup is the highlight.
In France, crowds of 5,000 are allowed and there will be that many in attendance for the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe a fortnight on Sunday.