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Racegoers return: Doncaster primed for first paying crowd since March

Tue 8 Sep 2020

Doncaster officials are well aware all eyes will be on them as the opening day of the Pertemps St Leger Festival welcomes the first paying crowd at any British meeting since March.

Since racing resumed after lockdown at Newcastle on June 1, it has been restricted first to essential staff and from early July onwards owners too.

Goodwood had hoped to stage the Saturday of the Glorious meeting in front of a crowd of 5000. But those plans were called off at the 11th hour as Government regulations were updated in the fight against coronavirus – and it has taken another six weeks for plans to be put in place for a pilot meeting to test out the return of spectators.

Doncaster is run by Arena Racing Company, and their racing division managing director Mark Spincer said: “There are nerves, absolutely.

“I think the team has done an amazing job, and we’re still finalising and tweaking things – and we’ll probably do that every day of the four.

“But we’re set, tickets have gone out – which are all advance sales, because we’re not doing walk-ups.”

Spincer acknowledges the stakes are high as the feasibility of racing crowds is put to the test on Wednesday.

He added: “Nobody needs to tell us how important this is – not only for Doncaster and Arena but for the industry and sport as a whole, the leisure sector and the hospitality industry need us to get this right.

“Arena have had the first day of racing’s return at Newcastle, and we had the first day of owners at Southwell – now we’ve got the pilot of racegoers returning.

“Despite all the space at Doncaster, because of social-distancing, we can only operate at 50 per cent capacity. Jockeys are in the exhibition hall because they need two metres between them; owners are in one of the restaurants – while the annual members are on the first floor, (so) there’s 800 of them spread out across seven bars.

“Hopefully it all goes smoothly.”

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