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They're off at last as racing behind closed doors starts today at Newmarket

They’re off at last at Newmarket today and four days of racing behind closed doors gets under way.

But course bosses have urged people to stay away from the Rowley Mile racecourse which will be staging the first two Classics of the season a month later than scheduled.

“While we are excited to be delivering four days of racing this week, the sport’s return does not mean that things are back to normal; far from it,” said Newmarket’s managing director Amy Starkey.

HQ: They're off at last
HQ: They're off at last

“We are asking that everyone plays their part to ensure these are the first steps on the road to recovery and not a damaging false start.

“The industry is worth more than £4 billion to the economy and supports some 20,000, highlighting how crucial this period is for all of us.

“Racing’s return has been given the go-ahead thanks to extensive work with government to ensure the lowest possible risk of transmission of the virus.

“Key to this is our ability to provide a secure site, with access only for those who have undergone online training, satisfactorily answered a series of questions and had their temperature checked on arrival at the course. Inside, we will be taking every possible measure to ensure social distancing is maintained, along with the highest standards of personal hygiene and equipment cleanliness.”

Addressing members of Newmarket Town Council on Monday, she added: “We need the town and the community’s support and are encouraging people to stay away from the Rowley Mile during the four days of racing but to continue to use other areas of the Heath which remain open to the public from 1pm, on the east side of town, such as Warren Hill, Side Hill or Waterhall.”

She added: “We are keen that in resuming racing at Newmarket we do so with the full support of our community.”

Councillors were told that the Devil’s Dyke footpath would remain open but Ms Starkey urged walkers using it not to linger and to continue to abide by social distancing rules.

“We will continue to monitor it and clearly there will be flexibility,” she said.

Town mayor, Cllr Mick Jefferys, welcomed the return of racing.

“We like to feel we are involved in all aspects of life in Newmarket and that includes racing,” he said.