As Vera Lynn almost sang: “We’ll meet again. Definitely at Kelso, don’t know when.”
We hope we’ll be allowed to welcome racegoers when our new season starts in September, but in the meantime it looks as though racing will be permitted to resume before too long without crowds.
The Racecourse Association has produced a twenty-five page draft operational plan to assist racecourses in the staging of racing “behind closed doors”. It’s a thorough schedule of all the measures that racecourses may be required to put in place, including quite a few speculative paragraphs relating to conditions that may or may not be imposed by the Government during a phased relaxation of the national lockdown.
The document is bound to undergo further revisions as we receive additional information from Government and medical sources. However, even in its draft form, it is a useful starting point for planning purposes. I have read it several times, desperately searching for something funny to say about it – but the sad thing is that this rather dry and shrivelled form of event may be the best that we can offer in the short term. While broadcasting racing into the homes of the nation and on to mobile devices will be a wonderful development, a large part of the fun in racing is the atmosphere generated by a racecourse full of people.
Perhaps the saddest thing in the document is the section that deals with food and drink on site. Buried within a number of bullet points, explaining that communal tea making facilities will not be available, is a line that says “Alcohol is not permitted”. I suppose there has to be a first time for everything, but it occurred to me that such an instruction might just be incompatible with horseracing at Kelso.
Fortunately however, I am about to take delivery of a small consignment of cask-strength whisky from the Scottish Malt Whisky Society in Leith. It contains enough alcohol to pass for hand-wash and when administered internally it provides all the strength required to consider the finances of racing without a crowd and to click on the button that tells the BHA that we’re willing to do it anyway.
This blog would never advocate the breaking of BHA instructions or RCA guidelines but, for emergency situations, it should be noted that we keep a small shot of “special” hand-wash in the medicine cabinet of the racecourse office at all times.
Racing behind closed doors will be sub-optimal, both experientially and financially, but it will oil the cogs of the industry and keep many small businesses afloat. It will provide some light entertainment for many people, including those who work in the hospitality sector, who may be obliged to remain at home for longer – where thankfully the RCA’s operational plan does not apply.
Cheers… until we meet again!