Owners able to attend Doncaster and Aintree meetings despite Tier 3 restrictions
There was relief for owners on Wednesday afternoon after it emerged they will be able to attend high-profile meetings at Doncaster on Saturday and Aintree on Sunday despite the areas being placed in Tier 3 within the government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
Aintree are offering six badges per runner with owners required to complete the two-stage screening process pre-raceday, bring photo ID to the track and travel separately in their individual household bubbles.
Owners must stay in those bubbles on course and wear a face mask in all areas bar when seated at a table, with access given to the Lord Sefton stand at the Merseyside track.
Doncaster's two-day meeting takes place on Friday and Saturday, with the South Yorkshire area entering Tier 3 from 12.01am on Saturday, but officials at the Town Moor track, where the going is good to soft, anticipate owners on course for both days.
Clerk of the course Roderick Duncan said: "Our understanding is that owners should be able to attend. It’s up to owners whether they take the government advice to not travel unless necessary, but it is their business and they’re investing a lot of money into their horses so it’s their decision."
On conditions, he added: "It’s good to soft and potentially easing a little as we’re having a little light rain today. It’s set to be dry tomorrow but there’s a risk of showers on day one on Friday.”
There had been confusion among owners earlier on Wednesday after conflicting advice from the Racehorse Owners Association and National Trainers Federation on owners' attendance at racecourses in Tier 3 areas, although a meeting between stakeholders was staged to clarify the situation.
The Old Roan Chase card is the first raceday at Aintree since Becher Chase day in December, with clerk of the course Sulekha Varma, who has assisted at the Grand National meeting for the past decade, running her first fixture at the venue.
Varma's appointment, taking over from Andrew Tulloch, was announced towards the end of last year but due to the pandemic her wait to stage a meeting at the Jockey Club Racecourses-owned course was delayed.
Low sun forced the fences in the home straight to be omitted in the Old Roan Chase last year, won by Forest Bihan, but the racecard order has been altered this year in an attempt to reduce the risk – with the going described as good to soft on Wednesday.
Varma said on Wednesday: "It will be my first meeting as full clerk of the course and it's been a bit of a wait! It will be getting on for nearly a year but I'm looking forward to it.
"We've taken the opportunity, with not having terrestrial coverage or general public on site, to run the chases earlier on the card to see if it helps reduce the risk of low sun.
"The day itself is looking like it might be fairly overcast anyway, but a few of the factors in moving the chases in previous years are gone under the circumstances this year so we’re able to mitigate the risk as much as we can.
"It's good to soft today, and a cloudy and drizzly day. A drier day is forecast on Thursday but there’s a possibility of some heavier rain on Friday and Saturday, so it’s quite a changeable picture."
Study the form and watch unlimited full video race replays from all 86 British and Irish racecourses. Join Members’ Club Ultimate now and never miss a race again!