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The Glorious Uncertainty

At the beginning of this week we’d hoped to resume selling tickets for the Autumn fixtures, but uncertainty over possible restrictions on capacity led us to hold fire for a few days longer. So on Monday I thought I might as well take a quick trip overseas.

I didn’t so much travel over the water, as part the waves: I drove across a causeway in search of inspiration among the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island. The road to Holy Island is enveloped by the sea twice a day and everywhere about the island are posters showing images of four-wheel drive vehicles stranded in the surf – there to remind visitors that time and tide wait for no man, not even ones driving Landrover Discoverys.

While admiring the regularity of the tide for its surety, it’s equally tempting to bemoan the lack of certainty surrounding our ability to plan for events during the Coronavirus pandemic. We are still waiting with frustration for the BHA to confirm that race fixtures between September and December will proceed as scheduled. And while the Government seems likely to green light the return of crowds in August or September, there is currently no official guidance regarding the protocols that we’ll need to put in place.

Greater certainty would enable us to plan ahead and make the most of the opportunities presented by the reopening of our venues. Meanwhile, the lack of certainty impacts customer confidence and could erode the strength of the economic recovery for everyone. Fail to plan and plan to fail – those were the uptight and self-righteous thoughts that ran through my mind as I registered the timings for high tide.

But as I sat on the rocks with my picnic, looking out to sea past the upturned boat-sheds and the imposing tower of Lindisfarne Castle, I thought again. This is a landscape that has been shaped by faith and hope in the face of uncertain forces – high winds, storms, and Viking invasions. The result is both beautiful and inspirational.

As Vincent Van Gogh said “I know nothing with certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

When racing resumes with crowds we will be obliged to do things a bit differently. We will have to make the most of our outside spaces and I think it will be fun. I imagine that we will welcome many more visitors to the trackside parking areas, where they will be able to enjoy a picnic in close proximity to the rails while the horses whizz by. We’ll serve more people with hot drinks from outdoor bars: hot toddies, cocoa and warm port. Tweed will be back in vogue, as racegoers remember the old adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.

The altered nature of race-meetings this Autumn will be exciting. The inevitable last minute changes to Government policy will lead to experiments and innovations, some of which will probably turn into new traditions. It’s all part of the glorious uncertainty of the turf and we will be embracing it.

There is no such thing, they say, as a dead-cert. But the next best thing is the blog selection: Island Brave, in the 1.30 at Ascot on Saturday.

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