Professionals welcomed the decision to put racing behind closed doors as Dundalk kept the show on the road in Ireland on Friday evening.
The County Louth venue is normally buzzing with racegoers and diners to start the weekend, but that was not the case due the announcement, a little over 24 hours ago by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
A ban was placed on outdoor events involving crowds of 500 or more, initially until March 29, as part of special measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dundalk chief executive Jim Martin said: “It’s interesting times, but I think it’s important for the industry that racing continues. The government message at the moment is to keep things ticking over and we are happy to play our part.
“There are very strict health precautions. The meeting is not open to the public and everyone entering – stable staff, jockeys, trainers, owners, officials and the media – are all being strictly monitored.
“It is important that it works.
“The whole racecourse gets deep cleaned every week and there are plenty of sanitisers in all the facilities. Hopefully all goes well.”
Trainer Ado McGuinness is a regular at Dundalk and applauded the move.
The County Dublin handler said: “Owners are getting to see their horse run. OK, it’s not the same as a normal race meeting, but we’re out and we’re working and I’m glad that we are.”
The card kicked off with standing dish Danz Gift showing a neat turn of foot to register a seventh course success in the Crown Plaza Dundalk Race & Stay Handicap.
Sheila Lavery’s nine-year-old last struck at the track in December 2018 and had failed to trouble the judge in five starts since returning from an eight-month break in November.
He had finished fifth behind Zippity over this five furlongs four weeks ago and comprehensively reversed the form.
Zippity looked like repeating that success when she hit the front, but Tracey Collins’ filly was mowed down in the closing stages by Danz Gift (11-1), who went on to win by a length and a half under Ronan Whelan.
Will Be King’s last nine races have all been on this track and he won for just the second time when taking the View Restaurant At Dundalk Stadium Claiming Race.
Joseph O’Brien’s four-year-old gelding was dropping down in grade after running in handicaps on his last three starts.
Sent off the 6-4 favourite, he pulled away from his rivals under Shane Crosse in the final furlong to strike by four and a quarter lengths from Lady De Vesci.