Leicester has go-ahead under reinstated restrictions but leading critics stay away
Racing returns to Leicester today a week after several trainers withdrew horses from a meeting there and two-thirds of the stalls handlers refused to work after the city had been put back into lockdown.
The British Horseracing Authority made the decision on Friday and, although racing at Leicester remains “under review should circumstances change substantially”, the restrictions which were in place in the rest of the country on June 12 have been reinstated.
Racing was permitted at that time and is therefore allowed to go ahead now. However, although two owners per horse can go racing elsewhere now, this will not be allowed at tonight’s fixture because they were prohibited from racing on June 12.
The biggest problem ahead of last week’s meeting was the short time between Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement that the city was going back into lockdown and the fixture, which did not give the BHA long to communicate with all trainers.
RaceTech has assured the BHA it will have the full complement of stalls handlers and that the starter will not have to resort to “flip starts”. The meeting has attracted 61 runners – about the average – although there are none from three of the last meeting’s principal critics, Graeme McPherson, Alan King and Mick Appleby.
John Gosden, meanwhile, is looking forward to the rest of the campaign with Enable, despite the mare suffering the third defeat of her career on her seasonal bow in Sunday’s Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
A third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe win remains her ultimate target in the autumn and she satisfied her trainer when second to Charlie Appleby’s Ghaiyyath over a trip short of her optimum.
“She took it well, she had a good blow after the race,” Gosden said. “It’s always a worry when you haven’t run since October and she was coming back as a six-year-old mare, but I thought her demeanour was wonderful.
“You are never going to catch Ghaiyyath round Sandown over a mile and a quarter when he gets a nice easy lead. He’s a magnificent horse and a great galloper.
“I could feel and see that her metabolism had changed as she’s got older. She’s finding it hard to get tight, the race will have helped, but you can’t keep trying to do it at home.”
Looking towards the rest of the season, Gosden told At The Races: “The King George would be the plan. We were lucky the Eclipse was only one day late because of everything, so we’ll look towards the King George, then York [Yorkshire Oaks] and Paris. I don’t want to over-race her.
“A third Arc would be an extraordinary achievement.”
Autumn target: Enable (below) and John Gosden covet a third Arc, after she finished second in the Coral-Eclipse