Jockeys were taking a pragmatic view after riding under new restrictions as racing returned for the first time in nearly 11 weeks at Newcastle on Monday.
The British Horseracing Authority has set out a comprehensive set of protocols to allow the sport to resume behind closed doors following the coronavirus shutdown. Strict hygiene and social distancing measures are in place, with jockeys now required to wear face coverings to compete as racing plays its role in trying to limit the spread of the disease while getting the show back on the road.
Andrea Atzeni was among the winners at Gosforth Park and said: “It’s not too bad in the mask, but it was my first ride for two months and it’s very warm. It’s what we’ve got to do, though, and we’ll get used to it.”
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Jockeys sometimes cover their faces when riding on the all-weather to try to avoid kickback from the artificial surface, a point Paul Mulrennan made after his first taste of the action.
He said: “Riding in masks is a little bit different, but some of us use them on the all-weather anyway for the kickback so it’s nothing too strange.”
Tony Hamilton initially encountered an issue with the new measure, but a minor adjustment allowed him to strike gold aboard Brian The Snail later on the card.
He said: “In the second race the kickback got inside the mask and it was down my throat and I was nearly being sick pulling up. So I put tights underneath and now the kickback doesn’t get inside. But I’m the only person who’s had a problem with it and the masks are there for a reason, we all know what they’re for.”
The jockeys were also using a makeshift changing room in the stands to enable adequate social distancing, while the lack of spectators is another factor Mulrennan believes riders will accept in order to be able to ply their trade.
He added: “Once you’re on the horse you’re in the zone anyway and you don’t take any notice of what’s happening in the stands. They’ve done a really good job here in a short space of time, it’s just great to be back and I hope we can push forward, crack on and get owners back.”