Haydock's Sprint Cup meeting suggested as possible trial option for spectators
Haydock's Sprint Cup meeting has been suggested as a possible option for Jockey Club Racecourses to host a trial of racing with spectators, with Newmaket and Sandown regarded as the group's other most obvious courses for scale and timing.
After the late cancellation of Goodwood's trial last week when the easing of Covid-19 restrictions was postponed by the government, Arena Racing Company-owned Doncaster offered to host racegoers in large numbers at next month's St Leger meeting.
JCR, which has been working with the Racecourse Association, Arc and independent tracks as part of an industry collective, has responded by mentioning three courses from its total of 15 which best fit the criteria for a pilot event.
The JCR's north-west regional director Dickon White, who has Haydock within his remit, said: "From a Jockey Club perspective, we're keen to get crowds back on course as soon as possible, and we'll work together with the rest of the industry.
"Looking at the dates, the three obvious racecourses within the group to do a test event would be Newmarket, Sandown and Haydock.
"We have the three-day Sprint Cup meeting early in September at Haydock and then we race again for two days at the end of September [25-26]. You'd like to think one of those will be included and we're watching with interest to see what happens.
"A Sprint Cup type of meeting would be very sensible as it's important to have a day within the pilot that has a reasonable amount of people, for example a crowd of 5,000.
"A Thursday and Friday at Haydock wouldn't give you the full challenge you need, but by Saturday you would have that and you could test different areas across the three days."
White believes Haydock is equipped to deal with any challenges presented by being close to Greater Manchester, where authorities have declared a major incident after recent rises in coronavirus infection rates.
He said: "We're in the borough of St Helens in Merseyside but we border Wigan, which is in Greater Manchester, so we're keeping a close eye on it. With the protocols that have been put in place by the BHA, I think we're in a really good place and managing it very well."
As many as 5,000 people were due to attend a trial on the final day of Glorious Goodwood last Saturday, which was one of three pilot events set out with County Championship cricket and the World Snooker Championship ahead of a wider proposed return of sporting spectators from October 1, but a recent spike in Covid-19 cases meant it was cancelled.
Although a new timescale for test events has yet to be confirmed, it is hoped there will be an opportunity for them to recommence from August 15.
Newmarket is due to race on that day and has the three-day Cambridgeshire meeting on September 24-26 on its schedule, while Sandown has five fixtures between August 22 and September 16.
RCA chief executive David Armstrong said on Sunday there was no guarantee racing would be one of the sports taking part in the rescheduled test events, but stressed the working group would put the best case forward to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
He added part of a proposed testing plan would be "trying out several racecourses of different sizes and possibly different ownership structures as well".
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