Can I buy tickets for Royal Ascot and other big race meetings this summer?
Your guide to the leading Flat dates with crowds set to return to the racecourse
For the first time in almost five months, spectators returned to racecourses across England last Monday.
While numbers are initially limited to 4,000 or 50 per cent of capacity (whichever is the smaller), racegoers are expected to jump at the prospect of seeing racing up close again.
Admittedly, all will not be exactly as it was before the pandemic. Face coverings will be required indoors, some tracks will be going cashless and tickets must be purchased in advance, but on-course bookies taking cash bets will be in attendance and you can still enjoy a pint – as long as you're sat at a table.
In England current restrictions will last until at least June 21, when the next stage of the government's unlocking programme is due to kick in and capacity crowds will hopefully be allowed again. However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned last Friday evening that the new Indian variant of Covid-19 could pose "serious disruption" to the move towards that stage.
In Scotland a maximum of 500 spectators can attend meetings from this Monday, although just 250 attended the first meeting this year to host a crowd, at Musselburgh on May 25. Restrictions have not yet been eased to allow spectators in Wales or Ireland.
While the situation remains fluid, here's our guide to the racing highlights ahead and whether you can buy tickets at the current time.
Thursday, May 28
Sandown's Brigadier Gerard Stakes meeting, this year backed by Coral, is regarded as the premier evening card in Britain and many high-class middle-distance horses have used the feature race as a stepping stone to better things.
Attendance is limited at 4,000 and information on tickets, starting from £20 in the grandstand, can be accessed via Sandown's website.
Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5
Epsom stages the two-day Derby fixture, which this year has the support of Cazoo.
Friday's card features the Coronation Cup, in which Love – one of 2020's stars – is engaged, while her trainer Aidan O'Brien could hold the key to that afternoon's Oaks with Santa Barbara and Snowfall among the market principals.
It is a similar story 24 hours later for the Derby – arguably the world's most prestigious race – as the stable's impressive Derrinstown winner Bolshoi Ballet heads the betting.
There is a 4,000-person capacity, but tickets have already sold out and track officials intend to fence off the unique course in an attempt to stop people gathering to watch on the public sites which surround much of Epsom.
Saturday, June 12
York is centre stage on the Saturday before Royal Ascot and hosts the Group 3 William Hill Bronte Cup, which can take place in front of a 4,000-strong crowd, with tickets on sale now.
The track's intention is to be as "normal as possible", while the Gimcrack Restaurant will be open without needing to book, serving a three-course lunch and afternoon tea.
Tuesday to Saturday, June 15-19
There might be more valuable meetings, but none is as fashionable as Royal Ascot, which is set to feature some of its usual glitz and glamour this year after a subdued five days behind closed doors in 2020.
Palace Pier, Battaash and Stradivarius could be among the headline acts and the track received good news after it was announced a crowd of 12,000 will be able to attend each day having been selected as one of the government's pilot events for June.
As well as owners, hospitality and members, including the Royal Ascot Racing Club and annual members, those who rolled over tickets from 2020 will be able to attend. An allocation of general admission tickets and royal enclosure badges will also go on sale on Friday May 28.
For those lucky enough to attend, traditional morning dress is mandatory for men in the Royal Enclosure, where formal daywear for women is required.
Things are slightly more relaxed in the Queen Anne Enclosure, but men must wear a collared shirt and tie with a full-length suit, while women should dress "in a manner as befits a formal occasion".
June 21 and beyond
British racing remains hopeful that the major relaxation of rules in England planned for June 21 goes ahead, although the warning by Boris Johnson about the Indian variant of Covid-19 tempers that optimism.
If all goes as the UK government hopes, Newcastle's historic Northumberland Plate could be the first big meeting back in front of a capacity audience, on June 26. DJ Judge Jules is due to perform after racing and tickets can be bought via the track's website.
Saturday, July 3
Sandown's Coral-Eclipse is always one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the summer as it represents the first chance for a generational clash between the middle-distance heavyweights of the Classic category and the older horses. Enable and Sea The Stars are just some of the champions to have won the race and, with England possibly in a Euro 2020 quarter-final that day, a mouthwatering sporting Saturday is in store. Tickets start from £25 and can be booked on Sandown's website.
Thursday to Saturday, July 8-10
The three-day July meeting on Newmarket's summer course might not match the magnitude of some of its Flat counterparts, but it is a jewel in the calendar with a fine blend of races including the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes on the Friday. That is followed a day later by the Darley July Cup. Tickets can be booked on Newmarket's website.
Saturday, July 24
The Flat racing roadshow rolls back into Berkshire for Ascot's best race, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a contest perhaps second only to the Derby in the British summer. Ascot has yet to release details of tickets but racegoers can sign up for email updates.
A new name will be on the trophy in any case following the retirement of three-time winner Enable.
Monday to Sunday, July 26-August 1
Racing fans in Ireland will have to wait a while longer until they can return to the track, but many will be eyeing up the Galway festival with more than usual anticipation. While nothing has yet been confirmed, track officials are desperate to get spectators back and have signalled their hope that the festival will be picked as a pilot event for the wider return of crowds.
Tuesday to Saturday, July 27-31
The Qatar Goodwood Festival, Glorious Goodwood in old money, is right among British racing's summer highlights and the Sussex Downs were vacant last year when the meeting, as was the norm, took place behind closed doors. Tickets start at £20 and there are not many better places to spend an afternoon if the weather plays ball.
Wednesday to Saturday, August 18-21
York's Ebor meeting is another date firmly stitched in the fabric of the summer and labelling it the Royal Ascot of the north might not be misplaced, given the standard on show, which includes the Juddmonte International, officially rated the world's highest-quality race last year. The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes and Sky Bet Ebor are more than adequate support events. Tickets can be booked now.
Read more on the return of spectators:
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