Officials at Leicester racecourse are waiting to learn whether their fixture scheduled for Tuesday evening can proceed, even as the first local lockdown to combat coronavirus is applied in their area.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said the city had “10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week”, with the result that non-essential shops there will be closed on Tuesday and schools will close for most pupils from Thursday.
Hancock announced the measures in the House of Commons on Monday evening, and specifically mentioned Oadby, the area just outside Leicester where the racecourse is sited, as one of the areas that would be included in the measures.
He told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “It’s so important we get a grip on this spike that has happened in Leicester. We will be closing the shops by law and will be changing the law in the next day or two to do that.” He also advised that people should not travel “in, out or within Leicester” unless it was essential.
Leicester’s clerk of the course, Jimmy Stevenson, was asked by the Press Association whether the meeting would go ahead from 4.40pm and deferred to the sport’s ruling body. “I haven’t heard anything as yet,” he said.
“It is a British Horseracing Authority decision and they are talking with people. Everything is in place for us to race, all our protocols are in place, but it is out of our hands.”
The finances of Leicester racecourse have taken a battering over the past year, mostly because of weather-related abandonments. At one stage this winter, the track had lost six meetings out of nine.
Horse racing has been taking place at tracks around Britain for the past four weeks, with attendance limited to essential personnel and measures in place to guard against transmission of Covid-19. Masks are worn by jockeys, stalls handlers and others who may at times have to work within two metres of others.
Tuesday’s best bets
It’s a tricky situation when you stick two young horses in the tracker after their debuts and then they turn up in the same race. I really fancied Roberto Escobarr for a novice contest at Doncaster today but, as he’s become a non-runner, Matthew Flinders (3.30) really ought to be winning.
Both were third in separate divisions of a Haydock maiden three weeks back. Matthew Flinders took part in the marginally quicker of the two races and was travelling quite a bit better than the eventual winner at the three pole.
Unfortunately for Oisin Murphy, racing room evaporated about a furlong later. The Siyouni colt ran on well once in the clear and was a really obvious eye-catcher.
He should know more today and I imagine Murphy will be keen to avoid a repeat. They appeal, even at 11-8, and there might be a bit of 6-4 still hanging around.
I thought Notforalongtime had strong claims earlier on the card and evidently at least one firm thought so too, as Clive Cox’s runner opened at 7-2. He is now 12-1, which is worrying enough that a watching brief seems the only responsible course.
There’s some 4-1 about Ice Lord (2.00), who has slipped back to what looks a fair mark. His last win, at the end of 2018, was over this course and distance and he’s 5lb lower now.
Chris Wall’s grey put up a really good effort on his reappearance, faring best of the hold-up horses in a Newmarket race in the first week of resumption, getting tired in the latter stages.