uesday’s late news about tightening coronavirus restrictions came just in time to sour the return of racegoers to a British racecourse. Up to 3,640 ticket-buyers are allowed in the ‘general admission’ areas at Doncaster on Wednesday, rising to more than 6,000 for the next three days, which should be a moment for hope that this is a firm step towards normality and the worst is past.
Instead, racing fans must wonder if there is any hope left for the mooted return of crowds at sporting venues from 1 October. “That’s the date the government announced but they haven’t confirmed it at all in the last couple of weeks,” David Armstrong of the Racecourse Association said on RacingTV’s Luck On Sunday at the weekend.
“It needs further confirmation. However racecourses are now getting ready for 1 October, meeting with local authorities, producing operating plans and risk assessments.”
“Planning is already well-advanced.” Racecourses hope to accommodate paying spectators – in some form – from 1 October.This date needs further confirmation from government and trials need to go well beforehand, says @TheRCA CEO David Armstrong #LuckOnSunday @ABE_Dubai pic.twitter.com/p6s6SieCYe
All that planning will be for naught unless sports crowds are exempt from the emergency action announced last night, which bans virtually all gatherings of more than six people in England. More details are expected on Wednesday, when Boris Johnson holds a Downing Street press conference.
The new limit is to come into effect on Monday, after the four-day St Leger festival has finished, so in theory this first multi-day pilot for the return of crowds should go ahead as planned. Bearing in mind the late cancellation of the Glorious Goodwood pilot last month, however, nothing can be taken for granted until people are actually passing through the gates.
“Nobody needs to tell us how important this is,” said Mark Spincer, a managing director of the company that owns Doncaster, on Tuesday. “For the industry and sport as a whole, the leisure sector and the hospitality industry need us to get this right.”
Wednesday’s best bets
There are seven races on ITV3, leading up to a big-field handicap at Doncaster in which Starcat (3.45) appeals, even though he tops the market at 9-2. While other yards are losing their form, Hughie Morrison’s has continued to be a regular source of winners and his chestnut can get off the mark for the year after some tougher tests.
Indeed, he started off as an 80-1 shot in the Guineas, finishing in midfield, and may not have liked the rain-softened ground when again well held in the Britannia at Royal Ascot. But there was promise when he was stepped up to 10 furlongs at Glorious Goodwood and finished strongly after, surprise, trouble in running.
This more galloping venue gives him a better chance to express himself and it is interesting to see the tongue tie added.
Moss Gill (2.10) looks the right one in the battle of the sprinters for the Scarborough Stakes, for which he and Dakota Gold are both available at 3-1. Dakota Gold would have preferred a wetter surface and his younger rival is still on an upward curve.
Wednesday’s racing tips
12.55 Toptime 1.25 Electric 1.55 Omnivega 2.25 Impatient (nap) 2.55 Andonno 3.30 Mishal Star 4.05 Urban Highway 4.40 Josephine
1.10 Royal Champion 1.40 Mayaas 2.10 Moss Gill 2.40 Late Arrival 3.15 Jubilosos 3.45 Starcat (nb) 4.15 Teruntum Star
1.30 Giga White 2.00 Blue Jacaranda 2.30 Minella Encore 3.05 Longhouse Sale 3.35 Elysees 4.10 Monty’s Award 4.45 Illuminated Beauty 5.15 Hello Fellas
4.00 Qaaraat 4.35 Red Allure 5.10 Electric Blue 5.45 Ghazaaly 6.15 American Anthem 6.45 Pretty Pickle 7.15 Boss Power 7.45 Capla Huntress 8.15 Divine Connection
A gelding operation seems to have been the making of Omnivega (1.55), who achieved little in his first two seasons but started this year with three wins in a row, two of them at this track. His running-on fourth at Ascot last time looks good in the context of today’s lower-class race at Kempton and he is the right favourite.
The nap has been an overnight shortener, from 6-1 into 7-2. Impatient (2.25) finished really strongly here last time and will surely appreciate the step back up to a mile, at which he achieved his only previous win. Itkaann is a serious rival, however.