Weekly Horse Racing Blog - Spectators Return / Weekend Wrap

Racegoers Back on Track

It was great to see the return of spectators, albeit in small numbers, to racecourses residing in Tier 2 areas last week and everything appeared to pass off rather swimmingly.

The proof of the pudding came at the weekend, when instead of having to deal with a few hundred midweek racegoers, it was the full complement of 2,000 people arriving at the various venues and systems were put in place to segregate spectators and participants alike.

Aintree and Sandown were among the tracks to welcome back crowds on “litmus test” Saturday and officials at both courses spoke of their delight at the way the day panned out.

Speaking at the home of the Grand National, clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “To have spectators on course, I think everyone can feel it’s just lifted things. We’ve got plenty of owners in attendance as well, which is really good news, and really good quality racing.

“Our limit is 2,000 people – that’s the limit the Government has placed on us. We’re certainly getting close to that, if not quite at it.

“The beauty of Aintree is it’s such a massive space that 2,000 people can keep their distance from each other very safely.”

Meanwhile Varma’s counterpart at Sandown Park Andrew Cooper reported “It’s all progress. It’s not quite where we want to be and we are not back to the old normal, but it is a big improvement on how we have been racing since June.”

Bending The Rules

Although great strides have been made by everyone concerned to get limited numbers of spectators back into sporting venues, it would be foolish to think that such sites are totally safe zones. Wearing a mask alone is not the invincibility shield some people have kidded themselves into thinking it is.

Racecourses have put guidelines and rules in place to keep people as safe as possible, but they are understandably powerless to stop the human ingenuity that has already found ways to flout the Government/Racecourse rules, and enabled folks that are desperate to go racing to get into the races regardless.

A postcode checking system for rejecting applicants from Tier 3 areas doesn’t work when you simply ask your Tier 2 friend to order the tickets and you arrive together, nor does telling people to “avoid public transport” when clearly they will when the nearest transport hub to the racecourse is quite often the train station.

Planes, Trains but not Automobiles

On the subject of “avoiding public transport”, there really needs to be a gradual shift away from the ostracising of responsible people who conscientiously have been using it for years to help protect the environment.

It must be remembered that a private vehicle is a major pollutant and not the magic travelling bubble that many have painted it out to be.

Admittedly trains and buses were often mobile Petri dishes prior to the pandemic, but the whole public transport landscape has changed drastically. It’s not full of all the unnecessary office place commuters – they’re working from home now. It’s actually a comfortable environment again – no more dangerous to your health and that of others than your local supermarket.

Further investigations led me to find that numerous racegoers arrived at racecourses last week via public transport, and more power to them I say.

Weekend Wrap

Never was the racing phrase “horses for courses” more apt than on Saturday afternoon on Merseyside when the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge (12/1) won the Becher Chase for a second time.

The 11-year-old was running in the race for the fifth time, having won it back in 2016, and has now successfully negotiated 223 National fences in his Becher and Grand National exploits combined.

Those considering having a bet on Viex Lion Rouge may want to take heed with Pipe saying “He doesn’t seem to stay the Grand National trip and I didn’t think he’d even get into the race before today, but now he might.”

Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power are both offering Grand National odds of 50/1 about the winner.

Politologue Wins Tingle Creek

Meanwhile at Sandown Park, Politologue (11/8) made the most of Altior’s controversial, but not unforeseen, absence from the Tingle Creek by romping home seven lengths ahead of another Paul Nicholls-trained runner, Greaneteen.

Politologue’s price for the 2021 Queen Mother Champion Chase ranges between 6/1 and 9/1 following his second win in the Tingle Creek Chase.

And Finally… Vote Hollie!

* Horse racing betting odds correct at the time of writing