At the Races: Where Can You Watch Racing, What are the Rules for Spectators and Can You Have a Bet?

Man Watching Horse RacingThe end of the lockdown in England will come, as expected, on December 2, and for many people any hopes of ‘freedom’ of any kind have been dashed after being placed in tier three of Boris Johnson’s coronavirus restrictions.

That means they….well, can’t do anything really, and while those in tier two are still subject to plenty of restrictions of their own, there is a bit more wriggle-room to be enjoyed.

And one of those, surprisingly, is the potential to watch live sport in person for the first time since March. In a move that took many by surprise, the Prime Minister announced that crowds can return to sporting events in tier one and two areas, albeit with some limitations.

In tier one, up to 4,000 spectators or 50% of the venue’s capacity – whichever is the smallest amount – can attend outdoor sporting events, and in tier two it’s 2,000 or 50%. In both tiers, up to 1,000 fans can be welcomed at indoor events.

That was an announcement met with joy by fans of football, rugby, golf and – thinking of next summer – cricket, and horse racing will also enjoy the benefits that punters at trackside will bring.

The on-course betting ring is expected to make a return of sorts as well, and both the Arena Racing Company and Jockey Club Racecourses gave beleaguered on-course odds-makers a welcome boost by announcing that it was waiving fees for all standing bookies until the end of the year at the earliest.

One independent ring bookmaker, Ben Johnson, was delighted with the news. “We are potentially talking about £80 to £120 savings for a day’s racing, which will make a big difference to struggling firms,” he said. “Every step now is one closer to normality.”

It’s good news for punters too, and particularly those who find themselves regularly backing favourites. Research has shown that since the first lockdown, with major betting brands setting the SP rather than taken from the betting ring, the ROI of punters taking the Starting Price has fallen quite markedly.

Where Can I Watch Horse Racing?

It’s worth noting that all of the tiers will be reviewed by the government on December 16 with regards to the number of COVID cases in the area. And so some will stay the same, some will be downgraded and some will be upgraded – that seems a given.

But as things stand, there’s a decent selection of racecourses within tier two zones, and so you will be able to go and watch some live racing….as long as the limited number of tickets haven’t been sold already, of course.

As far as December is concerned, here’s a selection (not exhaustive admittedly) of the meetings you could attend as of the 2nd of the month, when the lockdown comes to an end:

  • December 2 – Kempton, Lingfield, Ludlow, Haydock
  • December 4 – Exeter and Sandown (Tingle Creek)
  • December 5 – Aintree
  • December 6 – Huntingdon (Peterborough Chase)
  • December 7 – Plumpton and Chelmsford
  • December 8 – Fontwell
  • December 11-12 – Hereford and Cheltenham (International meeting)
  • December 15 – Wincanton and Catterick
  • December 18-19 – Ascot (Long Walk Hurdle)
  • December 26-27 – Kempton (King George VI Chase)
  • December 29 – Newbury (Challow Hurdle)
  • December 30 – Taunton and Haydock

Are There New Rules for Watching Horse Racing Live?

Watching Horse Race From Balcony

It’s worth noting that there is some very importance guidance about travelling to watch a racing. People from a tier two postcode heading into another tier two zone are fine, but there is the very real possibility that if you travel to a racecourse from a tier three postcode you could be denied entry.

Naturally, if you are experiencing COVID symptoms you should stay away from racing until you have had a test, and you will still be obligated to socially distance, sanitise your hands and wear a mask at all times.

You can only stand with people from inside your bubble too, so there will be no high fiving or hugging complete strangers when the hot favourite bolts home in the final furlong.

If you were wondering about purchasing tickets, details are still sketchy at this stage but it seems likely that the 2,000 available places will be offered to annual members of a course first. Any tickets that aren’t taken will then possibly be sold in advance – there won’t be any available on the gate on raceday.

And, finally, there’s no word yet on whether you can enjoy a pint or a glass of bubbly at the racecourse – in tier two, of course, all alcohol must be consumed with a hearty, substantial meal as per the guidelines.

But otherwise, have fun….it’s great to finally have crowds back at the racing!