A 0-60 all-weather 1m4f handicap run before noon at Lingfield on a Wednesday in December would not ordinarily attract attention, but there was much more interest in the opening race at the Surrey track as it played out in front of a live crowd.
Bar two pilot events at Warwick and Doncaster, spectators have not been allowed on course since March, but they were able to witness 9-2 favourite Beat The Breeze complete a hat-trick in the first of eight races on the card.
Winning jockey Callum Shepherd was thrilled to be able enjoy a victory in front of some racegoers, and said: “It’s great to have some spectators back. There were a few behind us in the winner’s enclosure and it’s nice to have some friendly faces supporting you.”
That sentiment was shared by Hollie Doyle, who was nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award on Tuesday and won the second race aboard Yes My Boy after a tight finish.
The jockey was clapped in to the winner’s enclosure by a small group of spectators, and she said: “It’s lovely to be welcomed back in again. I think the horses are a probably bit surprised by it.”
Favourite backers would have failed to mask their delight at Lingfield as the market leaders scored in four of the first five races.
Following on from Beat The Breeze’s success, Mystical Air and Ocean Road notched victories in the third and fourth races at 6-4 and 13-8 respectively, before 13-8 shot Fox Duty Free stormed to victory in the feature 7f handicap.
Racegoers are also allowed in limited numbers into today’s other three meetings at Haydock, Kempton and Ludlow. Favourite Falberto and 4-7 shot Bushypark also struck in the opening contests at Ludlow and Haydock to keep favourite backers happy.
The well-backed Bushypark put racegoers on the front foot at Haydock when winning the opening 2m7f handicap hurdle for conditional jockeys’ under Joe Williamson.
Despite the result Tattersalls bookmaker Paul Garritty was just glad to be back at Haydock. He said: “It’s a small stepping stone towards something like normality, hopefully by the spring. We’ve taken a few bets, but it’s more about getting back to work.
“We’ve not worked on course at the races since March 15 at Carlisle. It’s been a struggle, particularly mentally, as this is our livelihood and we haven’t got anything else. We’re hoping things will improve, it can’t get worse than it’s been. People will return, it might just take time.”
Trained and owned by Phil Kirby, Bushypark followed up his success at Hexham two weeks earlier where he landed one of the gambles of the year after being backed into 7-4 favourite from 16-1. The six-year-old was strong in the market again and was returned at 4-7.
There was an aptly named winner of the 2m4f novice handicap chase at Ludlow where Happy News caused an 18-1 surprise. The seven-year-old bounced back to her best form to win by four and a quarter lengths and give Jordan Nailor a quickfire double following Falberto’s victory in the opening race.
Race fans queue to enter Ludlow on the first day spectators are allowed back to watch the action
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Winning owner Caroline Shaw was emotional following the victory, and said: “I bred the granny, the mum and her. I foaled her, mucked out everyday and did everything to look after her until she was three, taught her to go on the walker and then she went with John.
“It’s amazing to see her win and she jumps so well – I’ve been in tears since she crossed the line, it’s just wonderful. This is a dream come true.”
Simon Smith, from Droitwich, summed up the mood of racegoers at Ludlow. He said: “I think it’s really good here, I expected to see more people but overall we’re really happy with it.
“I knew there was one entrance beforehand so came an hour early and just walked in. I guessed there’d be a bit of a queue. You can get a hot drink and go to the bar so it’s a great experience.”
Kempton’s eight-race card on the all-weather commences at 5pm.
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FIRST PUBLISHED 12:35PM, DEC 2 2020