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St Leger to be held behind closed doors after u-turn

Doncaster was due to host a crowd on each of the four days of the St Leger meeting.
Doncaster was due to host a crowd on each of the four days of the St Leger meeting.

Doncaster Council has halted a pilot scheme allowing crowds at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival due to health concerns, meaning that the remaining three days of the meeting will be held behind closed doors.

The racecourse was set to welcome a maximum of 6,200 people on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but with stricter lockdown measures set to be reintroduced nationwide by the Government this coming Monday, those plans have been scrapped.

Wednesday’s card does go ahead as planned, however, with 2,500 people set to attend - while it remains to be seen whether a crowd will be allowed at proposed trials later this month at Warwick (21st September) and at Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting (24th-26th September).

Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health for Doncaster, explained in a statement: “The current rate of infection for the borough currently stands at 10.6 infections per 100,000 people which I have been updated on today and this is an increase due to a range of factors including an increase in testing and a lag in the test results coming in.

“Therefore on the grounds of public health and public safety I have instructed the racecourse to hold the St Leger Festival behind closed doors from tomorrow. 

“The day’s racing will continue today as it is safer to manage racegoers on site and with enhanced test and trace, it will be easier to identify where they are from rather than closing the event today and leaving people to their own devices in Doncaster and the borough generally.

“I appreciate this decision may not be met with universal agreement but it is the safest and most appropriate way to move forward for everyone’s best interests in the borough and beyond.”

Mark Spincer, Managing Director of Arena Racing Company Racing Division, said, “We have had confirmation this afternoon from the Local Authority that we will not be able to admit a crowd to the final three days of the St Leger Festival, Thursday 10 to Saturday 12 September.  The race meeting will continue on a ‘Behind Closed Doors’ basis, as per all other race meetings currently taking place in Britain.

"This pilot event represents a hugely important step not just for our business but for the whole of British racing as well as the sports and hospitality industries as a whole.  We do, of course, fully understand and respect the decision and will be contacting all of our customers booked for the remaining three days as a matter of urgency.

"We were pleased to work closely with Doncaster Council to set up this pilot event in the manner that we had but matters beyond anyone’s control, and the data that regarding local rates that have come to light today, mean we will not be able to welcome a crowd from Thursday onwards.

"We would, of course, like to thank all of our customers for their support in the run up to this event as well as our staff who have done a monumental job in preparing the site.”

Damian Allen, Chief Executive at Doncaster Council, added: “I would like to place on record my thanks to the management team at Doncaster Racecourse for their meticulous planning for the festival. 

"They have been working positively with us and have put in significant amount of hours and hard work to prepare for and manage the event. The latest development of how the festival is to be held is based on public health and public safety advice and that has to be heeded. 

"The St Leger does have a special significance for Doncaster and I do hope the festival is enjoyed remotely this year and indeed with the anticipated return of spectators for the entire festival in 2021.”

Five to follow at the St Leger Festival
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