Latest Generation won the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes at Doncaster – the first race run in front of a paying crowd in Britain in almost six months.
Racing went behind closed doors from March 16 due to the outbreak of coronavirus – and just two days later the sport was cancelled entirely, ultimately not restarting until June 1.
Participation was initially restricted to essential staff – and while owners were allowed to return from July 4, hopes to stage a pilot event in front of a crowd of 5,000 at Goodwood on August 1 were scrapped at the 11th hour following a change to Government regulations.
It has taken another six weeks for a renewed pilot to test out the return of spectators – and an estimated crowd of 2,500 spectators was expected on Town Moor for the opening afternoon of the St Leger Festival.
That figure was due to rise to around 6,000 for the Pertemps St Leger on Saturday.
However, it was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon racing will go back behind closed doors for the rest of the meeting after Doncaster Council called a halt to the pilot in light of an imminent change in Government policy, which restricts social gatherings to six from a maximum of 30 people.
Having finished a promising third on his racecourse debut at Sandown last month, Latest Generation was the 8-11 for the curtain-raiser under William Buick and was prominent from the off.
Newcomer Stay Well came with a late run and shaped with plenty of promise, but Simon and Ed Crisford’s market leader always had matters in hand and passed the post a length and a half to the good.
Buick said: “He was in front, but we went fractions to suit him, so I’m not sure how hard it was for him.
“At the end of the day he’d only had one run and was in front a long way there, but he’s done it well.
“He’ll be a nice horse for next year. I don’t think you could ask any more from him.”
The Paul Midgley-trained Tarboosh claimed Listed honours with victory in the bet365 Scarbrough Stakes.
Ridden by Kevin Stott, the 8-1 shot finished with a flourish to get the better of Johnny Murtagh’s Irish challenger Urban Beat and Frankie Dettori by a length and a quarter, with 5-2 favourite Dakota Gold a neck further back in third.
Midgley said: “He was good today and when he’s good, he’s very good. He ran a good race at York, I’m just not sure what happened at Beverley last time – it just didn’t happen. We started to think he could be better on flat tracks.
“There’s a Group Three for him at Newbury on Ayr Gold Cup day and that is highly likely, I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to win a Listed race with him.
“He deserves a chance at a big one. I didn’t put him in the Abbaye with all the travel problems, but we said if we were lucky enough we could always supplement him, so that is an an option.”
The Yorkshire-based trainer admitted to being disappointed on hearing the news there will be no crowds on track for the rest of the week.
He added: “It all seemed really good, having a few people back in and for the first few races we had a little bit of atmosphere back, which was excellent.
“To hear they won’t be back tomorrow is a shame. It’s trying times for everyone I’m afraid, we’ve got to just do what is right and do the best we can.”
There was a thrilling climax to the bet365 Nursery Handicap, with Terry Kent’s recent York scorer Ataser justifying 100-30 favouritism under Ray Dawson with a head verdict over Party Game.
Jedd O’Keeffe ran two in the Each Way Extra At bet365 Handicap and it was bottom-weight Strait Of Hormuz under Andrea Atzeni who came out on top.
“He’s doing really and what is crucial to him is a strong pace, you’ll see the best of him when he gets it,” said O’Keeffe.
“He wouldn’t get in the Cambridgeshire this year so we might have to give it some serious thought for next year.”
He added on the crowd situation: “I feel really sorry for Doncaster when you look around and see the effort that has been made with the marquees on both sides of the track. I’m sure lots of people have made a huge amount of effort, not just the racecourse itself, but we’ve got to protect the people.”
The closing Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap went to Sound Of Iona who beat her Jim Goldie-trained stablemate Primo’s Comet.