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Not quite Wembley, but Leicester delighted to have racegoers back

Leicester welcomed racegoers with open arms for their evening meeting, with the city still in celebration mode after the football club won the FA Cup for the first time on Saturday.

The Oadby track was much more sedate than the atmosphere at Wembley, where an estimated 6,000 Leicester fans saw their club defeat Chelsea.

There was only about a tenth of that number at the racecourse – but it was still significant, marking as it did the latest step towards normality.

Clerk of the course Jimmy Stevenson said: “It’s great to have racegoers back. You can see the difference. We’ve been so used to the other experience with Covid, it’s been painful.

“I watched the cup final on Saturday and it was the same. Unfortunately, there’s no one from Leicester City here tonight as they’re playing Chelsea again on Tuesday.

“In total, the attendance with everyone will be about 600 to 700. We’re just taking it steady and getting everything in place and back in the groove.

“It’s been difficult because we’re led by Government guidelines and they’re changing all the time.”

Jockey Tom Marquand was delighted to see the crowds back in the UK after being used to them on his recent stint in Australia.

“I got used to the crowds in Australia, then I came back to no crowds again, which was bizarre, so this feels more normal than not having crowds,” he said.

“It’s great to have everyone back. It just lifts the racecourse up a bit.”

He picked up a winning spare ride on Divine Magic (9-2) in the Organ Donation – Start The Conversation Fillies’ Stakes. Marco Ghiani gave up the mount as his partner was expecting a baby.

“I’m sure he won’t be too bothered about missing out on a winner, but it’s a nice spare to pick up and she relished that bit of dig in the ground,” said Marquand.

He completed a double on the William Haggas-trained Chalk Stream (7-1), owned by the Queen, in the Rainbows Hospice For Children And Young People Handicap.

It was a quiet night for the 13 bookmakers on course, despite a gamble being landed in style by newcomer Dora Penny in the opening Bodie Hodges Foundation Restricted Novice Stakes.

On-course Bookmaker Michael Cannon was just delighted to be back working.

“It’s nice and quiet and nice to be out,” he said.

“I personally thought there would be more people here because it’s the first day everyone is allowed out. I can understand some people may be taking a cautious view, but for those who are out business is acceptable. It’s a small step on the way.”

Backed down from 13-2 to 11-4 favourite, the David Evans-trained juvenile was a smooth winner by two and three-quarter lengths from Hattie C under George Downing.

It was the second gamble landed by the Evans stable in recent days after Choux bolted up at Thirsk from much bigger odds.

Downing said: “This filly is very nice. David said to me she goes well enough at home and although she was a little bit green early on she knew her task when let down. Mr Evans knows the time of day.

“Delighted to see crowds back. It’s what the sport needed. It’s great, it brings lot more enthusiasm to racing. It’s very positive.”

Sadly, there was no joy for Lee and Jo Burns, parents of apprentice jockey Harry Burns, who made the two-hour journey from Harlow in Essex.

Unfortunately, his mount in the opener, Teasyweasy, was withdrawn after unseating him on the way out to the track and running loose.

“This is the first time we’ve seen him ride since the pandemic. We last saw him on the track about two years ago,” said his father.

“He took a little time off, but he’s back doing it again since March. He’s based with Jo Parr in Newmarket.

“We’re excited about seeing him ride again.”

Bashosh (2-1) looked an exciting prospect when making an impressive debut in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes.

The Dubawi colt, a full-brother to Nezwah, winner of the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes, shot clear of Thaler in the final furlong to score by four lengths. The first two drew 16 lengths ahead of Emanate in third.

His rider Jack Mitchell said: “He’s just taken a bit of hand to come to hand. He’s similar to his sister in that he’s not run until he was three.

“He’s got the job done really nicely. I liked the way he went through the race. He was green, but he was very professional at the end.

“I think he will only I improve by going up in trip. The run will make is sharper. He’s very exciting.”