Dubai: Doncaster racecourse on Wednesday opened its doors to British racegoers for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown in March and they were welcomed by a Dubai-owned winner on the opening day of the famous four-day St. Leger meeting.
Latest Generation, a son of the great Frankel, who raced in the yellow silks of Sheikh Rashid Dalmouk Al Maktoum, showed himself to be a nice horse for the future when posting a length and-a-half victory in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes over a mile.
Jointly trained by Simon and Ed Walker and ridden by Godolphin’s retained rider William Buick, Latest Generation was asked to make all the running and he held on smartly for a comfortable win over Stay Well, the mount of Tom Marquand.
Buick’s hopes of a double on the landmark day were thwarted by Frankie Dettori who partnered Foxtrot Lady to win the featured Group 3 Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes, with Althiqa holding on for second. But midway through the meeting, there was bad news for after the Director of Public Health for Doncaster announced that they will not be permitted to attend the next three days at the St. Leger Festival.
According to Dr Rupert Suckling, the current rate of infection for the South Yorkshire borough has escalated to ten infections per 100,000 people, forcing the spectator ban.
The future of sports events has come under review following a rise in Covid-19 cases, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to make a ruling later yesterday.
Closed doors again
Arena Racing Company (Arc), which runs Doncaster Racecourse, confirmed the ban on spectators.
“This pilot event represents a hugely important step not just for our business but for the whole of British racing as well as the sports and hospitality industries as a whole.” said Mark Spincer, the managing director of Arena’s racing division.
“We do, of course, fully understand and respect the decision and will be contacting all of our customers booked for the remaining three days as a matter of urgency.”
Doncaster mayor Ros Jones welcomed the ban on live spectators and said: “I believe holding the St Leger Festival behind closed doors is the right thing to do for the safety of the borough, given the latest change in Government’s advice overnight and the increase in infection rates both in Doncaster and nationally.”
The highlight of the four-day festival is the Group 1 St. Leger, which is the oldest of Britain’s five Classics.