Jumps Season - At The Races

Racing awaits confirmation of crowd pilot events

    Doncaster’s St Leger meeting in contention following latest Government announcement.
  • Features

Racecourse officials are awaiting confirmation from the Government as to which fixtures will be able to stage pilot events to welcome the return of crowds.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced in July that a small number of sporting events, including horse racing, would be used to pilot the safe return of spectators through July and August.

A crowd of 5,000 was due to be allowed on course for the final day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, but those plans were scrapped just 24 hours before the meeting after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off the pilot events amid fears over the coronavirus infection rate.

Two weeks on, the Government has now sanctioned the public attending a small number of sporting events – starting with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre this weekend.

It is hoped that if the pilot events are successful, competition venues will be reopened for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place, from October 1.

Among those tracks reportedly under consideration to stage a pilot for racing is Doncaster, which hosts the four-day St Leger Festival – commencing on September 9 and ending on September 12.

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, told Sky Sports Racing: “I know Doncaster are up and ready to undertake a trial and have advanced plans, so fingers crossed for that.

“It’s hugely important because across the entire economy you need to get people back. In racing we have really stringent protocols. Racing is an outside sport and there is lots of outdoor space available.

“Please God we can get people back and back safely because it’s a long road ahead for so many different industries but ours in particular if we can’t.”

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