Newcastle officials receive positive feedback on new protocols

Tue 2 Jun 2020

Officials at Newcastle have been pleased with the reaction of participants to the new safety protocols put in place for the resumption of racing.

The north-east track was chosen to host the first meeting for a variety of reasons, the main one being there is ample space to employ previously unused areas within the grounds to use as a separate unsaddling enclosure.

Jockeys are also using a makeshift changing room to enable the two-metre social distancing which is needed at all times.

Feedback to clerk of the course James Armstrong has been positive and he praised the efforts of those who had planned the return of racing for the past few weeks.

“Considering Monday was the first day back and given there were a lot of new protocols to take on board, I think everyone did really well,” said Armstrong.

“Stable staff, the trainers that were here, groundstaff, medics, doctors and everyone else, they (the changes) were very well received as everyone has had a lot to take on board recently.

“It all went very smoothly and we were very pleased with how things turned out.

“The jockeys were very happy. Firstly they are just glad to be back working, but they are all happy with the lay out and the set up and how efficiently it is all working with the one-way system.

“Luckily the lay out of the track lends itself to that well, so we haven’t had the logistical headaches other tracks may have, but the changes have gone down well.

“David Williamson (executive director) has been here since March and has been heavily involved in the Resumption of Racing Group so he has done the bulk of the work.

“We were always mooted as among the first to come back because of the lay out of the track, it lends itself well to a smooth transition.

“The unsaddling area we are using has worked perfectly, it is shaded and allows enough space for what is needed.

“I know the jocks were blowing a bit but we can’t moan about the weather too much – and it is supposed to change soon anyway. A few of our sister tracks are crying out for rain, everywhere is parched.

“Rain will also help our track and come Thursday and Saturday we should be bang on standard, which is what you want for Group races.”

One aspect of the day which was not bargained for was the appearance of a drone flying over part of the course.

Arena Racing Company racing division managing director Mark Spincer said: “There was a drone on a section of the estate that is no longer owned by us, where seven houses were built. The operating vehicle was running out of there.

“Executive director David Williamson and the head of our security went to the property and spoke not only to the people operating the drone but also the people who were allowing them on their land.

“We informed the drone element of the police, who’ve informed aviation – is it in the fly zone of Newcastle airport?

“We’ve informed the BHA and RCA and we actually had the police out last week because we believe we saw it then, testing it out.

“I don’t think it was up for the last two or three races of the day after we’d been to see them and we’d like to think it won’t happen again.”

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