New coronavirus restrictions mean London-based racegoers will miss King George

London-based racegoers planning a trip to Kempton for the two-day Ladbrokes Christmas Festival, featuring the King George VI Chase, will be unable to attend after the Government placed the capital into Tier 3 of coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday.

Kempton can still admit a maximum 2000 spectators from Tier 1 and 2 areas, as the racecourse is in Surrey and not London.

Tickets for both days of racing on Boxing Day and the 27th have sold out, but those travelling from Tier 3 will not be allowed to attend, which has been the case since crowds were able to return to racecourses earlier this month. They will be entitled to a refund and Kempton can put the tickets up for resale.

The blow to London racegoers came when Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the Government’s plans to the House of Commons following a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

Racegoers were back at Ludlow earlier this month when crowd restrictions were eased
Racegoers were back at Ludlow earlier this month when crowd restrictions were eased (David Davies/PA)

He said of the move to Tier 3 for London: “I know that this is difficult news and I know that it will mean plans disrupted and for businesses affected it will be a significant blow.

“But this action is absolutely essential not just to keep people safe but because we have seen that early action can help prevent more damaging and longer-lasting problems later.”

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the decision was “incredibly disappointing” for businesses but urged the capital’s residents to follow the rules.

He added: “The worst thing for London’s businesses and our economy would be yet another full lockdown in the new year.

“That’s why I urge Londoners to follow the Tier 3 rules that the Government is putting in place very closely so that we can drive down infection rates as much as possible.”

Clan Des Obeaux won last year's King George at Kempton in front of packed grandstands
Clan Des Obeaux won last year’s King George at Kempton in front of packed grandstands (Steven Paston/PA)

Kempton general manager Simon Durrant told Racing TV: “Based on the information we’re receiving, London goes into Tier 3 from Wednesday, (but) that doesn’t change anything here at Kempton Park.

“Kempton Park remains as a Tier 2 racecourse and Tier 2 environment. That said, the national review (of restrictions) will still take place on Wednesday, as it was always intended.

“Today, nothing’s changed. We still look forward to welcoming spectators on Boxing Day and December 27, albeit some of our customers who may have purchased tickets from a Tier 3 location will now sadly be contacted by our team to offer a full refund.

“We just need to monitor the news very closely and see what happens as a result of Wednesday’s announcements.

“Being able to welcome spectators has been great. We’ve missed our spectators and it’s brilliant to welcome them back.

“Let’s hope that Wednesday’s announcement doesn’t change anything.”

Action at Chelmsford will be back behind closed doors on Thursday
Action at Chelmsford will be back behind closed doors on Thursday (Tim Goode/PA)

Parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are also affected by the latest developments, meaning Chelmsford’s evening meeting on Thursday will be without racegoers.

Clerk of the course Andy Waitt said: “It’s very disappointing for our members and owners.

“I’ve not been given the full lowdown on what’s happening yet, but from what the restrictions are, I’d imagine that owners can come in, but under restricted circumstances, with no food or drink available, which is really unfortunate.

“We’ve not been having massive crowds and haven’t had any general public, but we’ve been able to have some of our members in and it’s been nice to be able to offer something to owners. They are the lifeblood of racing at the moment and need to be looked after, so it’s a shame we won’t be able to give them as much as we’d like to.

“It seems to be one step forward and three steps back at the moment.”