LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Horse racing resumed in England on Monday as professional sport got under way again following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Elite sport in Britain has been in a deep freeze since March but the government on Saturday approved the return of domestic competitive action behind closed doors from June 1.
Premier League football is scheduled to restart on June 17, while cricket chiefs still hope to stage a full international programme during the summer.
Racing has a head start in its attempts to grab the attention of fans starved of live sport, but it looks very different from when it departed before lockdown.
At Newcastle, in northeast England, there were no spectators to watch the 10 flat races while trainers, jockeys and grooms wore masks.
Zodiakos won the first race on English soil for 76 days as the 22-1 shot edged out stablemate Al Ozzdi on the line.
“That has blown away the cobwebs,” Zodiakos’s jockey Jimmy Sullivan told Sky Sports.
“In this heat today, riding in the mask, it is very warm and after pulling up I pulled it down a little just to get a few breaths in.
“It wasn’t too bad though, it’s manageable and it’s the sort of thing that in a week you won’t even notice it.”
The 2,000 Guineas, on June 6 at Newmarket, will be the first of the flat-racing season’s “Classic” races.
Earlier in the day, pigeon racing enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight.