Carlisle Racecourse welcomes Flat racing back to the track on Monday (17th May) for the first time in more than a year, when a limited number of spectators will also return.
The impact of COVID-19 prompted The Jockey Club to stop Flat racing at the Cumbria track 12 months ago. Jump racing restarted behind closed doors at Carlisle in October last year, but when the starting stalls open on Monday afternoon it will be the first action on the level since September 2019.
It is a welcome development for Molly Dingwall, General Manager at Carlisle, and her team, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes in readiness for the return of Flat racing to the course.
She said: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome back Flat racing to Carlisle after such a long absence and it’s particularly fitting that it coincides with the first day of spectators being allowed to return to racecourses.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on sport as a whole and we’ve felt that just as keenly at Carlisle Racecourse. It was disappointing not to be able to host our Flat programme last year and that meant some historic races did not take place, but we couldn’t be more excited about Monday.
“Owners, trainers and spectators have been so supportive of the course over the years, not to mention incredibly patient.
“The team here have been absolutely brilliant and have worked incredibly hard to keep the course in great condition. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back for what should be a fantastic summer of Flat racing.”
Carlisle will become the first racecourse in England to stage a race in front of spectators this year when the action gets under way at 1pm.
Among the changes to racecourse protocols will be a reduction in the size of ‘Green Zones’ on course for raceday officials, jockeys, trainers and other key staff, while owners will be allowed into the paddock and to socialise with trainers for the first time since last March.
Social distancing will continue to apply on course but while face coverings will still be required in the parade ring and indoors, they will no longer be mandatory in other outdoor areas on racecourses.
One of Carlisle’s biggest supporters on the Flat is Keith Dalgleish, who has sent 205 runners to the racecourse over the last five years from his base in Carluke, near Lanark in Scotland.
The trainer has made 12 entries for Monday’s card and he revealed that he is looking forward to the action re-starting.
He said: “It’s great to have Flat racing back at Carlisle. It’s one of our more local courses and I tend to find that the stiff track is a good education for my two year olds in particular, so we always try to support it when we can.”
Also local to Carlisle is Iain Jardine in nearby Dumfries and he echoed the thoughts of Dalgleish in welcoming the return of Flat racing to the track.
He said: “It’s obviously great for us as our local track and there will be suitable races for plenty of our horses this year, so we’re absolutely thrilled. It’s a good, well run track that always provides decent ground and we’ve had success there in the past.
“There’s always a good atmosphere at Carlisle so it’s going to be brilliant to have spectators back on course. They’ve got the Bell and Plate meeting and that’s one of my favourites, so it’s going to be good to get back going.”