Racing is first out of stalls with Jockey Club Racecourses Wincanton track hoping to take advantage

Racing is first out of the stalls with Jockey Club Racecourses’ Wincanton track in rural Somerset looking to take advantage of the Government’s decision to allow crowds to return

  • Sports across England were given a huge boost on Monday by the Government
  • The Government announced a limited return of crowds to live sport events
  • And racecourse officials were quick to begin considering their options 

Racecourse officials were quick out of the stalls on Monday night to begin considering their options as the positive news about a limited return of crowds emerged.

While confirmation of which tier a racecourse falls into will come later this week, an early beneficiary of the changes could be Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), with their Wincanton track in rural Somerset looking best-placed to take advantage on December 3.

JCR would then have hopes of some spectators at Sandown’s two-day Tingle Creek Chase meeting (December 4-5), the following week’s Cheltenham two-day International Hurdle meeting (December 11-12) plus the King George VI Chase fixture at Kempton (December 26-27).

Racecourse officials have immediately planned for the return of crowds to live events

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: ‘This is good news for racing and for our many millions of fans who have been unable to watch in person the sport they love since March. We know the numbers are limited to begin with and not all venues will be allowed to admit spectators, but this is progress.’

When no crowds looked like being allowed, the number of meetings on Boxing Day was halved to four. Whether these changes have enough financial impact to completely or partially reverse that decision remains to be seen, but that option was left open by the BHA.

There are big questions. Do owners count towards spectator numbers, for instance? But having successfully used a zonal system on tracks since racing was allowed to start again and also having staged pilot events at Doncaster and Warwick, the sport has a blueprint to work to.

Jockey Club Racecourses' Wincanton track could be the first to host fans after lockdown ends

Jockey Club Racecourses’ Wincanton track could be the first to host fans after lockdown ends

Having 4,000 in attendance should be enough for tracks to recoup their infrastructure costs and make some return — a lifeline to businesses which have been haemorrhaging money.

Racecourse annual members should be the first to benefit.

A huge boost is that high street betting shops will be among the none-essential allowed to open. While they are shut racing loses £12.5million per month in lost Levy and media rights payments. 

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