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Warwick Pilot Event Gets Green Light

Track will open Sept. 21 with reduced capacity.

Horses race at Warwick

Horses race at Warwick

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

Warwick's test event on Sept. 21 has received support from local authorities after the track agreed to reduce the event's capacity to 474 spectators from 800.

The reduction means no tickets will be available to the general public, with the crowd for the Monday fixture to be filled by 150 annual members, 124 hospitality bookers, and up to 200 owners—in addition to participants and raceday staff.

Newmarket's 1,000 person-per-day pilot across the Cambridgeshire meeting (Sept. 24-26), which won the support of local authorities on Tuesday, is to be filled from the same four categories meaning the first day of Doncaster's St. Leger meeting will remain the only time members of the paying public have been allowed on a racecourse since the country went into lockdown in March.

Andre Klein, general manager at Warwick, said: "We're really looking forward to welcoming a number of annual members to the racecourse on Monday, as well as customers in our restaurant and hospitality areas.

"Over the last few months we've worked hard to develop a robust plan for the event that ensures those attending will have an experience meeting the most stringent of health and safety measures. I'd like to thank the range of local stakeholders we have held constructive discussions with to achieve this outcome.

"We have followed their requirements and made concessions to our original plan to significantly limit the number of people at the racecourse, but we will still gain very helpful insights from those who do attend and understand and appreciate the complexities facing those who were involved in making this decision."

Warwick made provisions for 1,250 racegoers before last week's test event at Doncaster was abandoned after the first day.

The course reduced its application from the government-capped 1,000 to 800 in a bid to host some racegoers from the general public, but conversations with local authorities and Public Health England resulted in a further reduction.

Emily van de Venter, associate director of Public Health at Warwickshire County Council, said: "I'm very grateful for all the work that has gone into ensuring the event runs in the safest possible way for all involved and look forward to hearing feedback following the event itself."

It is hoped both Warwick and Newmarket's trials will provide British racing and sports events in general with key learnings to use as part of a future return of spectators to venues—a return that was scheduled for Oct. 1 before the increased restrictions.

Secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport Oliver Dowden on Wednesday tweeted: "Return of fans to sport update. Just held a collaborative and constructive meeting with major sports on the Oct. 1 review. There is mutual understanding of the need to get fans back in, while all acknowledging the very significant headwinds we face with the virus.

"The government is conducting this review rapidly and will complete this work on the return of fans as soon as possible. This follows a meeting I held with the business events sector earlier this week as part of the review."

Reacting to the meeting, British Horseracing Association chair Annamarie Phelps said: "This meeting represented a further opportunity to stress to the secretary of state the message that he and his department have been receiving from the racing industry over the last few weeks—namely the consequences to the sport, and the many livelihoods it supports, of a delay to the return of crowds.

"It was a constructive and frank discussion about the perilous state of finances in racing and other sports. We will continue to engage with government to demonstrate that the public can return safely to our sport."