Naas racecourse has been primed for the return of Irish racing on Monday afternoon and racecourse manager Eamonn McEvoy is confident of a positive experience.
In March, the track hosted racing behind closed doors and the experience from that and all that has since been learned has been employed to ensure a successful relaunch of the flat season.
“Certainly, social distancing will be adhered to here. We will police it ourselves, but people are aware of it, and everyone is a stakeholder in this industry, and everyone wants it to work. We need it work," said McEvoy.
“We’ve gone through the place with HRI and the IHRB regarding what sections of the course will be used for which people.
"As we can’t use the weighroom, we have prepared a jockeys’ overflow room in the panoramic restaurant, where we can give them all a table and a chair to ensure social distancing.
“We have the cleaners in doing a deep clean and then fogging the room afterwards.
“There is a lot of work involved but we’re all part of this industry, and we have to do it. It’s no more than what the people are doing at home getting the horses ready to come here on Monday.
"We all have to do our best to get it done and get back racing. Everyone will have to be on their game.”
Leading the way back brings an inherent pressure but such is the focus on preparation, there is little time for concern.
“Maybe on Monday morning there will be a pressure, but I can’t say enough about the IHRB and HRI. The work they have done with us has been a massive help.
“They gave us protocols for the first meeting behind closed doors and, my God, we have gone stricter again.
“They have put in some work. They came to the course last week, did videos to show people where they can go and what will happen, and there is going to be zero tolerance.
"Sometimes you hear negative stuff about those two organisations but the teams they have on the ground doing this work have been brilliant. It’s very much a combined effort, as every day is.”
The appetite for the return is evident in the entries which came out yesterday afternoon.
“I was delighted to see some of the horses that are coming,” added McEvoy. “The two listed races could easily be Group 3s, and I see a half-sister to Saxon Warrior entered in the fillies’ maiden and many other really well-bred horses in the maidens.
"That’s what we want here in Naas.”
A recent dry spell has increased the track team’s workload, but that, too, is under control.
“It has made it trickier but it’s not a case of turning on the taps in the last few days — we have been watering. Roy Butler and his team here at the track have been fantastic. The covering of grass is second to none.
“We’re due a bit of rain on Friday night and Saturday and we’d be delighted to see it just to help us along. We’re ready for the return, confident it will be a great success.”