Officials at York hope new measures put in place ahead of this week’s Ebor meeting will help to enhance the enjoyment of owners on the Knavesmire.
A recent further easing of protocols means up to six owners can represent one horse, while those in attendance will be served a three-course meal, be able to place a bet and take part in winning presentations.
While York is not expecting to reach its capacity of 600 owners, James Brennan, head of marketing and sponsorship, is just glad to be able to offer an improved experience.
“We’re not exactly sure how many owners we’re expecting. This is the first time we’ve raced when we’ve been able to offer owners a bit more of a raceday experience,” said Brennan.
“We’re delighted to be offering a three-course meal and a glass on arrival, but we’re also conscious this week is right in the middle of the staycation holiday season and a number of main contenders are owned by notable international owners, who understandably won’t be here.
“We have capacity for up to 600 owners, but we think it’s more likely to be 200 to 300 with Saturday, understandably, expected to be the busiest day.
“The owners will be based in the Ebor restaurant this year, as it’s a bigger space than where they would normally be and it’s easier to socially distance.
“We have an auxiliary presentation podium, outside of the main parade ring which is a green zone which owners unfortunately aren’t allowed in, but we can do a socially-distanced trophy presentation for the owners that are with us.
“The Premier Racing Lounge is a space that would normally be home to about 130 racegoers, but it’s now an area for winning and placed connections and we’ve set up the replay channel so they can watch the race back. They’ll still get a video book of their race, but it will just take longer than normal so we are not handing things over.
“The ownership experience is hopefully getting back to something like (normal), but they will miss not being able to be in the parade ring – we understand that.”
While owners were initially asked to spend as little time as possible on course, they are now permitted to stay for an entire card and Brennan suggests with so much quality racing on show, plenty will be keen to stay for the afternoon.
“Owners can now stay all day and if you’ve a runner in the seventh race, why wouldn’t you want to get there early and see the Acomb, the Great Voltigeur and the Juddmonte International?” said Brennan.
“While prize money obviously isn’t at 2019 levels, we are still staging the richest nursery, apprentice race and maiden anywhere in the UK.
“You can have a bet now in the William Hill shops or the two bookmakers who are part of the trial, and there is a bar open where they can get a drink.”
While York is pleased to be looking after owners, Brennan admits the behind closed doors policy brings its own challenges.
“We know over 80 per cent of our income is racegoer related and with no clear sign of a crowd coming back, you start to fret about what might happen in 2021,” said Brennan.
“The pressure this year is different. The phones have obviously been quiet and I’m not rushing round the individual restaurants checking everything is in place, but on the other hand, a lot of what we are doing, we are doing for the first time so we need to make sure it’s all in order.”