Royal Ascot to welcome 12,000 spectators a day

June 15-19 meeting added to list of pilot events to take place before possible lifting of all legally-imposed measures to curtail pandemic; "It is excellent news," says BHA chief executive Julie Harrington; "There's nothing better than Royal Ascot with people," says Frankie Dettori

Royal Ascot is set to host a daily crowd of 12,000 next month.

The racecourse confirmed on Wednesday that this year's five-day showpiece meeting will be able to welcome back three times more than the attendance which had been anticipated.

Ascot officials were planning to have 4,000 racegoers each day, from June 15-19, under current national policy as coronavirus restrictions ease during step three of the Government's road map.

However, the meeting has been added - alongside the second cricket Test at Edgbaston in England's series against New Zealand - to the list of pilot events to take place before the possible lifting of all legally-imposed measures to curtail the pandemic, on June 21.

Among the pilots so far staged, a crowd of more than 20,000 was permitted for this month's FA Cup Final at Wembley.

A statement from Ascot read: "Ascot Racecourse, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the Racecourse Association (RCA) announce today that Royal Ascot (June 15-19) has been selected to be part of the Events Research Programme (ERP) on behalf of the sport.

"While the precise detail of what will be trialled and what the requirements from visitors to the racecourse will be remains work in progress, it is confirmed today that 12,000 people will be admitted each day to Royal Ascot.

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"As details are confirmed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and following input from Public Health England and Ascot's Safety Advisory Group, they will become available on: www.ascot.co.uk

"Today's announcement means that all those who rolled over their 2020 bookings can now be accommodated, and an allocation of Royal Enclosure Badges and Queen Anne (General Admission) tickets will go on sale this Friday, May 28."

Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson said: "We are delighted that Royal Ascot has been accepted to play its part in the next phase of the Government's Events Research Programme. We much look forward to welcoming 12,000 racegoers each day.

"Our thanks go to our industry bodies, the British Horseracing Authority and the Racecourse Association, which led the preparation of the submission to Government."

BHA chief executive Julie Harrington added: "It is excellent news that Ascot will be included in the Events Research Programme as a pilot event.

"It is an opportunity to demonstrate how racing events are perfectly suited to safely hosting spectators in greater numbers as we progress through the Government's roadmap for the easing of lockdown restrictions.

"We are grateful to DCMS, and this outcome reflects the strong and positive relationship between racing and Government. Working with colleagues, we will ensure that our participants remain protected to the same degree that has been achieved with racing's bespoke coronavirus protocols since resumption in June 2020."

RCA chief executive David Armstrong said: "I am so pleased that Royal Ascot has been selected as part of the ERP program.

"The RCA and the Industry Return of Spectators Group have worked closely with the ERP (and its predecessor groups) to develop pilot options across racing which demonstrate the safe nature of the racecourse environment and the strength of our operating protocols.

"The Ascot team have done an outstanding job in configuring the course for this pilot, and racegoers and participants alike can look forward to an exceptional Royal Ascot experience delivered to the highest standards of safety."

Dettori can't contain delight

Frankie Dettori can barely contain his excitement at the news a crowd of 12,000 will join him at Royal Ascot next month.

Dettori was crowned leading rider at the showpiece fixture for the second year in a row last season - courtesy of a final-day treble, which included the Coronation Stakes on Alpine Star and the St James's Palace on Palace Pier.

The Italian has been synonymous with the Berkshire venue ever since his 'Magnificent Seven' in 1996, and comes alive there - especially at the big meeting in June.

But as he reflected on those victories last year - along with Enable's third King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes win - he described the sight of empty stands as being like "someone had cut my arm off".

"It's unbelievable news, and I'm so happy," said Dettori, following Wednesday's announcement that Royal Ascot will be added to the list of the Government's pilot events and therefore able to welcome back a crowd of 12,000 - three times the number which was previously anticipated under step three of the road map exit from coronavirus restrictions.

"There's nothing better than Royal Ascot with people," he added.

"I know it's not 60,000 - but it's better than what we thought. Well done to everybody involved that made it possible.

"Last year I was leading rider at Royal Ascot and won three Group Ones, including the Gold Cup, (and) later in the year I won the King George. To have nobody there to see any of that, it was like someone had cut my arm off.

"Those are the biggest races we've got here, and I won them in front of empty grandstands. It goes without saying it wasn't the same, so I'm so happy at this news - it will put a smile on everybody's face."

Dettori is keen to stress too it is not just the direct participants who will benefit.

He told the PA news agency: "It's not just the big horses that I'll be riding that deserve a crowd - it's the owners of every horse who runs there over five days, (and) the breeders.

"This is why breeders and owners are involved in the game, to get to Ascot. They want that buzz.

"At the moment while we might still be doing the racing it's barely any different to what it is like riding work in a morning.

"Let's hope this is that start of getting full crowds back - it's just brilliant, and I can't thank those involved enough for making it happen.

"I'm speaking on behalf of all the jockeys really. We all can't wait to have the crowds back."

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