Winning trainers Kayley Woollacott and Christian Williams voiced resounding endorsements of Warwick’s pilot crowd meeting.
Woollacott had most to smile about with a big-priced double to bookend Monday’s eight-race card – while Williams sent out a promising winner and a second from his four runners.
Both were full of praise too, though, for on-course arrangements as the Government-backed trial event welcomed back annual members and hospitality guests among a crowd approaching 500.
Since racing resumed on June 1 following the coronavirus shutdown in mid-March, only Doncaster has been able to allow racegoers in – but that just lasted one day after the local public health authority pulled the plug due to an increase in Covid-19 cases.
As Newmarket plans to stage a three-day trial at its Cambridgeshire meeting this week, Williams made it clear he has been highly-encouraged so far.
“It was brilliant – I think everything has been run so well,” said the Glamorgan trainer.
“I think we’ve advertised ourselves well, and it was just great to come in today and see the crowd here.
“It’s our sport, and it’s great to see people back at the races.”
Government concern about a resurgence of infection nationwide is evident – but Williams is convinced at least that racing is doing everything possible to provide a safe environment.
“I’m not sure which way things are going to go, with us maybe going into a second wave a little bit now,” he added.
“But I hope positives can come out of today. Racecourses, and the sport as a whole, are showing that things can be done in a proper way.
“Every time you go racing, it is impressive the way things are done – one-way systems, it’s all very professionally done.”
Woollacott, who began the card with a 66-1 success thanks to Especially So in the Wigley Group Novices’ Hurdle, echoed Williams’ words.
“It’s great to have some owners here cheering them in and a bit of a crowd as well,” she said.
“It’s a long way off where we want to be – but at least we’re racing, and there’s a bit of an atmosphere here today.”
Especially So kickstarted the first double of the Devon trainer’s career, scoring by a neck under Tom Scudamore.
Woollacott said: “I thought she was overpriced. I’m not saying I thought she’d win, but we did tell syndicate members she was a decent each-way bet.
“The step up in trip has helped her, and I’d imagine we’ll be looking at handicaps now.”
She later landed the concluding Get Daily Tips At racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle, with 25-1 chance Tipalong Tyler pulling 11 lengths clear in the hands of 7lb claimer Josh Newman.
“She just wants a trip, bless her – she’s not very quick,” Woollacott added.
“The cheek-pieces have probably helped her, and the 7lb claim has helped as well.
“It’s my first double, which is great. We don’t often have two runners on the same day, never mind two winners.”
Williams’ yard favourite Cottonvale had to settle for second behind Tipalong Tyler.
But he had struck earlier with Kitty’s Light (3-1 joint-favourite) as jockey Jack Tudor earned the plaudits in the Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The saddle slipped before the home turn, yet Tudor somehow managed to conjure a late charge from his mount to prevail by a length and three-quarters, before ending up on the turf not long after the line.
Williams was thankful to Tudor, but unsurprised at the skill shown by the rider who won last season’s Welsh Grand National for him on Potters Corner.
At the suggestion Tudor had performed a minor miracle, he said: “Yes – but we’ve known how good he is for a while, so it’s just another day in the office for him really!
“He’s an exceptional talent, a very good rider.”
Williams was grateful that fortune was on his side too.
He added: “We’re lucky there was no weight cloth on the saddle – because it looks like it would have gone. But everything stayed intact.
“He’s just a bit of a lean horse, only a four-year-old and hasn’t really filled into his frame yet.
“I should have run him in a breastplate rather than breastgirth, and it looks like the saddle just slipped and then carried on slipping.”
Racecourse manager Andre Klein, meanwhile, was pleased with how the day unfolded.
He said: “I’d like to thank everyone who joined us today for adhering to all the safety guidelines in place and helping us create a safe environment for a fantastic day’s racing.
“It’s been a challenging few weeks in the preparation stages, but we’re delighted that our annual members, hospitality guests and owners could be on course to enjoy it with us – and we’re really pleased with everyone’s feedback.
“We’ve learnt a lot in the process, and I am looking forward to being able to share those learnings with other courses to help the sport prepare for whenever we can safely welcome crowds back to our venues on a more regular basis.
“It is really important for us as a small racecourse to be able to showcase that we can offer a safe, and socially-distanced raceday while adhering to all the strict guidelines in place.
“Smaller racecourses are the foundation of the sport, particularly those hosting regular midweek fixtures, and I can’t thank my team enough for their efforts over the past few days and weeks.”