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York and Ascot all set for Saturday crowds

Officials at Ascot and York are ready to welcome racegoers for the first weekend meetings since many Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

York are anticipating a figure of around 30,000 on Saturday, with a sell-out in all enclosures on the stands’ side of the course.

Ascot’s projected attendance will be around half that number – between 14,000 and 15,000 for a card which features the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs, said: “The King George is going to be a fantastic race. Hopefully they all stand their ground. We’re just waiting on the weather to have the final say.

“We’re forecast some rain overnight and in the morning. As we know from Royal Ascot (last month), predicting how much rain we’re going to get is nearly impossible. Hopefully we don’t get too much.

“We’d like enough to bring the whole field into it, but not so much that it turns the ground soft.

“We’re expecting a crowd of somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 – it depends on walk-ups.

“We’d normally get between 24,000 and 25,000 for the King George. We’re obviously going to be some way short of that, but we wouldn’t want too many more than we’re going to have, to be honest. It’s better to have a manageable crowd – safety first.”

The weather is expected to be kinder at York, where McFly are in concert after racing – during which  the highlight will be the Sky Bet York Stakes.

James Brennan, York’s head of marketing and sponsorship, said: “Unlike the south we are looking at a dry and pleasant forecast, and the other remarkable thing is we have not had the Clock Tower (or Picnic) enclosure open in 21 months.

“Tomorrow we might reach the 30,000 mark.

“Stands’ side – County Stand, Grandstand and Paddock – we have reached capacity. The Clock Tower enclosure only goes on sale on the day. Its capacity is several thousand. We wouldn’t be expecting to turn people away from that, but you never know. None of us knows what life will be like as we emerge from the pandemic, but there’s a real buzz about the place.

“Aidan (O’Brien) is sending one over from Ireland (Armory) for the York Stakes, for the first time in a long time. We’re delighted at that, and the music broadens the base and engages more people. If it’s the only time they come racing then it’s great. We hope they gave a great time.

“There is real excitement in terms of seeing people back.”