Pinatubo was back in the winner’s enclosure for the first time since his dominant two-year-old campaign in Sunday’s Prix Jean Prat at Deauville and his return to winning form also coincided with the return of paying spectators to French racecourses following a government decision on Saturday to allow total attendance of up to 5,000 people at sports stadia.

As a result, television viewers gained a sense of what racing will look like when lockdown restrictions in Britain begin to ease sufficiently to get at least some paying spectators back on track. The experience of watching racing behind closed doors does not jar nearly so much as football without the noise and colour of packed stands as a backdrop, but it was still quite thrilling – for this viewer, at least – to see people lining the Deauville running rail in the final two furlongs of the big race, and then applauding Pinatubo and William Buick as they returned to unsaddle.

And every last one of them was wearing a facial covering – nobody was allowed past the front gate without one – which is something that the British public have struggled to embrace as a matter of habit even at the height of the lockdown in April and May. But there will be a much great incentive to do so from Friday week, when wearing a face covering will be mandatory in all shops in Britain.

This could yet prove to be the final piece in the puzzle when it comes to getting at least a few thousand people back to British racecourses (and other professional sport too, for that matter).


This thought might seem a little odd when a measure is being introduced for enclosed spaces and a racecourse is a wide-open, unenclosed space, but people who comply with one rule are more likely to comply with others, like hand-washing, social distancing and so on.

If compliance is widespread, as it is on public transport where, if my experience last week is any guide, pretty much everyone now covers their face, the government may feel more confident about letting crowds back into sports stadia. Racecourses, where there is much less sitting or standing for half-an-hour or more in one place than is the case for other major spectator sports could be an obvious place to start.

Whether that could be in time for either Goodwood later this month or York’s Ebor Festival on 19 to 22 August remains to be seen. But as and when it happens, as is the case in France, do not expect to make it past the front door if you don’t have your mask.

 

 

 

theguardian.com