Neil Watson (@WattyRacing) took his first steps back onto a race course recently since the government loosened some of the Covid19 restrictions & here is what he had to say about his return to his beloved Haydock Park…..
Three race days in 2021 so far for myself and all in the month of May, these are my only three days so far since crowds were allowed to return to the racecourse and it also equals the same amount of days I went racing in the whole of 2020, my last day on a race track watching LIVE racing was at Doncaster on Thursday 12th March.
So now we are allowed back through the turnstiles, in reduced numbers, although at the moment you can’t in Wales (Due to different government restrictions) which no doubt makes things tricky, even for fans of Chester Football Club as the car park is in England and because of the boundary line the club is technically in Wales but under Cheshire Council, one thing which many of you are probably wondering is what is it like?
Well, to begin with it kind of reminded me when we all returned to school after the summer holidays, 6 or 7 weeks on a diet of Wacaday and Why Don’t You( TV Shows of a certain era) in the morning although I did have two diversions namely in the shape of Glorious Goodwood and the York Ebor Meeting but when we did return many of us forgot the simplest things like how to write again especially using joined up writing!
“it didn’t seem like fifteen months had passed in the bat of an eyelid.”
Going back into Haydock especially on a Saturday did have some things that never change, such as the drug dog, who thankfully didn’t bark when I walked past him although I did take my own alcohol in albeit in the form of hand sanitizer.
Race cards were on sale in their traditional form and the Annual Members bar was opened even though a few tables had been removed and to order an alcohol based drink you had to go and use the jockey club app and the drink came a few minutes later to your table, where you had to drink it, in fact if their is a rule I would keep it is that all alcohol must be consumed sat down, walking about the place had a far more relaxed feel to it for sure.
Getting a brew was fine, we get them for free in the AM bar anyway and going for a sandwich from the café upstairs was something I would normally do anyway but in this case, I wore a mask in the Cheveley Park colours.
On the betting front, the on course bookmakers were up and running taking bets in cash and card as was the betting shop and like when you are inside, you do have to wear a mask when putting a bet on, Tote facilities also had cash or card options.
Mainly though the best thing about returning was seeing the familiar faces again, those who come to most of the race days regardless of the weather and come because they love the sport and like anyone, who has a passion about something whether it be sport or the arts or simply standing at the end of Crewe station taking down numbers, it’s the social interaction which has something that Zoom, can never ever fully replicate.
If you haven’t returned to the racecourse yet, yes it might seem different at first but things do seem to be gradually returning to how we used to know & it is important to go with the flow and to respect the rules in place as to avoid another lockdown.
When chatting with some of the regulars that I know they were just glad to be back racing again and oddly it didn’t seem like fifteen months had passed in the bat of an eyelid. A few did feel it a bit but knew it was the right thing to watch from home but deep down Haydock is our place where we feel like we belong and as someone who has been going since 1996, it has played a huge part in my life.
It is great to be back, at first I was wondering and actually worried if the buzz would still be there, after all, when you have fifteen months away from it you do wonder if you actually want to go back and would if it feel the same.
I will admit I didn’t quite get emotional when I walked through the gates but then again I’d have probably looked a right berk doing a Frankie style flying dismount off the Be Friendly statue to herald my return.
So please do enjoy your day at the course when it happens but do stay safe and stick to the rules so the shutters don’t go up once more!
Article by Neil Watson
Picture – Neil Watson (Except Haydock Park Stand – File)
Arseonlineracing Production – June 2021