Racegoers grab the best seats in the house for the Good Friday cardPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Crowds pour into Good Friday raceday venues
RACEGOERS were flooding into Lingfield and Musselburgh racecourses at lunchtime on Good Friday to take part in a piece of sporting history.
Despite some clouds, the sun was shining at both venues with Lingfield having the honour of hosting the first race to be run in Britain on Good Friday - an apprentice handicap at 1.45pm - some 15 minutes before the show starts at Musselburgh.
At Lingfield £1 million in prize-money has been ploughed into the inaugural All-Weather Championships Finals, making it the richest raceday ever staged on an artifical surface in Britain.
In the day's feature race, the Coral Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships Conditions Stakes worth £200,000, Jeremy Noseda hopes favourite Grandeur can reverse the form with Robin Hoods Bay, who triumphed in the Winter Derby at Lingfield just last month.
"Since what happened in the Winter Derby I have been waiting for tomorrow's race," said Noseda.
"I've thrown that last run out of the window - this is redemption day. I am happy with his condition - he is great order - and he has a good draw [in two]."
Friday's card is the culmination of a £2.5 million investment in all-weather racing which was secured after it was agreed to stage meetings on Good Friday for the first time.
The move to race on Good Friday was resisted by some in the sport, both on religious grounds and because it was previously one of just a handful of days with no race fixtures scheduled.
It also clashes with the Betfair-sponsored Lambourn Open Day as well as Middleham's Open Day, although both training centres anticipate large crowds regardless.
Lingfield is expecting a bumper crowd. Kate Hills, director of PR and communications for owners Arena Racing Company, said: "Advance ticket sales have reached 5,000, and with good weather forecast we're hoping for a good walk-up on the day, too. We're on target for a crowd of 7,000 plus, which will be one of the biggest Lingfield has ever seen.
"Everything looks great here in preparation for the big day. There are flags flying and the track looks amazing. Everybody here has made a big effort, and we're all looking forward to it."
At Musselburgh, which also races Easter Sunday, general manager Bill Farnsworth expressed hope the East Lothian track could expand the meeting into a three-day Easter festival.
"We expect a healthy crowd which we can build on over the next two to three years in the same way we have done with our Easter Sunday meeting," he said.
"It's a new fixture and like anything which is new it will take time to establish its credentials, but we believe we have the makings of an excellent Easter Racing Festival with two days of quality and family racing."