Ascot wants as many people as possible to enjoy 'race of the season' on Saturday
Ascot will on Saturday play host to the biggest crowd on a British racecourse in 16 months, with the track expecting north of 14,000 racegoers for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes day.
Should the field for the Group 1 hold up and the weather stay fair Ascot's director of racing Nick Smith is hopeful that number could be comfortably eclipsed for what he called "the race of the season".
It has all the ingredients to be racing's first big celebration, with Aidan O'Brien's winning machine Love potentially tangling with Derby hero Adayar and Sheema Classic victor Mishriff – along with a whole host of others – at the end of a week in which lockdown restrictions are lifted in England. Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver was ruled out of the race on Monday.
"We'll probably be at half capacity for the King George. We're expecting something around 14,000 or 15,000 depending on how sales go this week," said Smith. "We've had a very short sales window in terms of the final confirmation restrictions would be lifted on July 19 and actually being able to proactively market the race."
The course would more than welcome a final week surge, however, and Smith added: "We don't have a capacity cap because if people want to come we want to have them. It's looking like being a vintage running of the race, and if the weather holds it should be a fantastic day and we'd love as many people as possible to come.
"This is what the King George is all about. If they all stand their ground then we'll have the race of the season, which is what it should be, and there's the possibility of Mishriff running as well. We're looking forward to it."
A crowd of around 14,000 would be comfortably larger than the 12,000 allowed during the Royal Ascot test event but well down on a normal King George crowd.
Smith added: "That suits us well as we're pushing the RCA and GBR messaging that although July 19 means there's no legal restrictions, people should still be comfortable wearing masks, be mindful of large crowds and distancing opportunities, and be responsible and sensible when they come to the races.
"The crowd will largely manage itself because the venue is so big, it isn't feasible for us to have a normal number for a King George because of the timing so we have plenty of space."
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