Two owners per horse are set to be allowed back on racecourses in England and Scotland from March 29 as the sport takes a step back towards pre-pandemic conditions.
The British Horseracing Authority revealed an aim to increase access to a maximum of six owners per horse from April 12, tying in with the further easing in government restrictions and at which point outdoor hospitality will be reintroduced.
Racecourses are not allowed to provide such hospitality for owners until that date, but light refreshments will be available for the first two weeks back and there will be no limit to the time owners can remain on course during a raceday.
Ged Mason, part-owner of dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux with Paul Barber and Sir Alex Ferguson, is looking forward to seeing his horses in action, especially with Aintree’s Grand National meeting on the horizon.
Mason said: “Any owners will be delighted to be able to go back on course and see their horses in action. It’s been understandable about the restrictions that have had to be in place, but it’s good news that we’re now taking a few steps forward.
“There was great coverage of Cheltenham on ITV but you can’t beat the experience of being there for your runners and being able to see them after the race. I’ve worn the carpet out watching our runners from home!
“I’ve missed the camaraderie of being on track and it will be great for the sport for owners to be back. Sir Alex without question shares the same enthusiasm for going back—he loves jump racing and since leaving football management it’s been a big hobby of his.”
The Betway Bowl is being targeted for Clan Des Obeaux—11 years on from connections landing the grade 1 prize with What A Friend— while Grand National entry Give Me A Copper, unbeaten juvenile Monmiral, Henry VIII Novices’ Chase runner-up Hitman, and Protektorat are others with Aintree options for Mason.
Mason said: “Give Me A Copper should get in the National and it would be great to have a runner. It’s one of the biggest worldwide jumps races so that will be a thrill. He’s always been a little bit tricky to train but Paul always gets the best out of his horses and hopefully he can work his magic with him.”
Strict infection control measures will continue on course with owners having to pre-register their attendance. Bangor, Ffos Las, and Chepstow—the three tracks in Wales—are awaiting guidance on the return of owners, with Wincanton, Fontwell, Stratford, and Wolverhampton the first tracks to welcome back owners on Monday.