Epsom called off its evening meeting today as the racing industry felt the shockwaves of terrorist attacks in central London.
It was a traumatic day for many people employed in the industry who work in the city, including those in the British Horseracing Board and Jockey Club offices in Shatfesbury Avenue.
Although there was never a question of the day’s feature meeting at Newmarket being abandoned, crowds were reduced by the closure of King’s Cross and Liverpool Street stations in London.
It was the transport chaos around London that partly led to the decision to abandon at Epsom, according to the track’s clerk of the course Andrew Cooper.
“Firstly, there was the transport situation and secondly, a feeling that it would be inappropriate in the circumstances,” he said.
“It wasn’t a decision that we took lightly and we thought long and hard about it, but a huge part of our clientele comes from the London area and as the situation there became clearer, we were able to make a decision.”
Managing director Stephen Wallis added that he felt it inappropriate to stage “an entertainment event in the shadow of London”.
He said: “There will be those who say that we have given way to the terrorists, but the reality is that we just didn’t feel it was right.
“Our two switchboards have been jammed with calls for the past couple of hours and we have only had two complaints about the decision.
“Our heartland is suburban London and we felt that tonight, there are people who need to make more important journeys than getting to the races.”
Ticket-holders will receive a full refund, and officials are in discussion with pop star Ronan Keating’s management in the hope of finding a new date for him. He was due to perform this evening.
BHB managing director Greg Nichols said he understood and supported Epsom’s decision, but insisted that as much as possible, the sport should continue unaffected.
“Our first concern is not for racing but for the innocent victims who were going about their daily lives,” he said.
“Epsom have made an entirely understandable decision in the circumstances, which we fully support.
“We will be looking to ensure the continuation of racing. We believe that in the circumstances it is entirely the right thing for us to encourage the sport to continue whilst remaining sensitive to circumstances.”
All five cards scheduled for tomorrow are set to go ahead.
At Newmarket, restrictions on the use of mobile phones by jockeys were lifted in order for riders to remain in contact with family and friends.
Jockey Club director of regulation Malcolm Wallace explained: “It was written into the early draft of the rules that if any situation occurred which might affect a jockey’s ability to make administrative calls, we could always lift the ban.
“We envisaged this encompassing something like plane delays and traffic jams, but given today’s events it seemed like common-sense to lift it.”
A public address announcement warned racegoers at Newmarket before racing to be vigilant in looking out for suspect packages, and the atmosphere at the track remained more sombre than usual throughout the afternoon.
As well as the racing authorities, the Racing Post experienced problems with staff getting in to work at its Canary Wharf HQ, while bookmakers also had problems in getting staff in.
Simon Clare, spokesman for Barking-based Coral, said: “There’s in excess of 1,000 betting shops within the boundary of the M25 and many of them, in common with other retail businesses, will be experiencing difficulties.
“But in the light of the sort of scenes we have been watching in London today, the safety of our staff and customers will be the most important thing at all times.”