Racegoers return - and Goodwood and Brighton are among courses you should visit
The return of spectators to racecourses in England begins today, with Carlisle, Redcar, Leicester, and Windsor hosting a crowd. Despite limited numbers, racegoers will no doubt be excited to be back on the racecourse.
With that in mind, here are seven tracks you should add to your must-visit list exclusively chosen by the Racing Post.
Goodwood: sun and drama on the Downs
King Edward VII once described Goodwood as a "garden party with racing tacked on" and it is hard to disagree more than 100 years later. Its five-day glorious meeting in July is a must for any racing fan, so dig out your picnic basket and dust off your Panama hat.
Few racecourses are as visually attractive as Goodwood. Set on top of the South Downs, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and a party atmosphere, but do not be too distracted. There is substance to go with all of its quintessentially British style.
There are 14 Group races to savour at its premier meeting and the rolls of honour for its top races read like a 'who's who' of Flat racing, with Frankel and Stradivarius among the stars to win races here. - Jonathan Harding
Brighton: take in the glorious sea air
The drive along Warren Road adjacent to Brighton racecourse whets the appetite for a day at the races like no other.
Brighton is one of the most unusual tracks in Britain and fits the must-visit category for those yet to make the trip. Be it scenic views or amazement at the short pull-up past the winning line, there is plenty to pique your interest.
Course specialists are always worth a second look at a track where the ability to handle the undulations is essential, and don't forget to keep a close eye on runners trained by Tony Carroll, the most successful trainer at the course in the last five years, or Mick Quinn, who is three from three at the seaside venue this season. - Jack Haynes
Epsom: savour something truly unique
Epsom is home to the world's greatest Flat race but the hill, camber and Tattenham Corner are all part and parcel of any fixture at a track where the sport is always exciting to experience.
Once the Cazoo Derby and Oaks are run, the quality of action at Epsom admittedly drops down a few notches, but watching horses take on one of the sport's most unique and demanding tests still makes the meetings that follow well worth a visit, particularly as you can do it any way you wish.
For although the best view is gained from the grandstands, there's much to be said for getting even closer to the action in the middle of the circuit on the Downs, whose popularity with local residents has been even greater than usual since Covid-19 changed everything.
All being well, the public will be allowed in healthy numbers to Epsom's four summer Thursday nights, when each one includes not just racing but music.
Get along to one of them and be reminded that just as a dog is not just for Christmas, Epsom is not just for June. - Lee Mottershead
Cartmel: sticky toffee goodness
Nestled in the Cumbrian countryside just over two miles from the shores of Morecambe Bay, Cartmel racecourse is one of a kind.
The course's three-day May meeting, which is in fact run over five days, begins on May 29 and should be circled on any racing fan's calendar as courses prepare to welcome back spectators.
With its tight turns and carnival atmosphere, Cartmel is perhaps as close as professional racing now gets to its community roots.
Each of the winning connections takes home not just prize-money but also one of the town's famed sticky toffee puddings; Cartmel is just that sort of place.
Crowds usually pack into the central oval, which is bisected by the unusually long home straight – the longest in Britain at just over four furlongs from the final fence to the line.
The racing may not be the highest-quality fare available over the coming months, but summer jumping, indeed summer racing, rarely gets more enjoyable than a sunny afternoon at Cartmel. - Tom Ward
Chester: soak up history on the Roodee
Established in 1539, Britain’s oldest racecourse sadly went ahead without spectators for its annual highlight, the May festival, but there are plenty more opportunities coming up to visit the resplendent Roodee.
The racecourse is a crucial part of the local economy and takes pride of place in the centre of the historic cathedral city, where visitors can explore the famous city walls and the town's Roman amphitheatre before ambling down to the track for a glorious day of summer racing.
A low draw is crucial at the tight track, which is just over a mile long and possesses a very short straight, with jockeys, trainers and punters all bewitched and blessed at various times by its unique turns.
Crowds usually pack into both the stands and the paddock area in the centre of the course, with officials hopeful of having 4,000 spectators back in time for the next meeting on May 29. Beyond that, there are at least two meetings per month until the season finale at the start of October. - Andrew Dietz
Salisbury: scenic search for a future star
Leave the Russian tourists to marvel at Salisbury's impressive cathedral spire and instead head to the racecourse, where some of Britain's best trainers often send their promising two-year-olds to run in some of the better-contested maidens away from the major tracks.
Salisbury's reputation is such that it is one of a handful of small independents to stage Pattern races, with the Sovereign Stakes and the Dick Poole Stakes both holding Group 3 status in August.
The course wends across rolling hillside that tests any young horse's balance, sweeping down to a finishing straight lined with three pleasant enclosures.
Picnickers can stretch out in the relaxed Sarum lawn area for a tenner or it's only £14 for the grandstand (children under 17 go free in both), while the top-end Bibury enclosure will hopefully be back on tap if the last of the pandemic restrictions are lifted later in the summer.
Best of all, there is a genuine chance to see the top stables and jockeys in action, with the possibility that in years to come you can tell your friends and family how you saw a Classic hero or heroine break their maiden. - Scott Burton
York: nowhere quite like it
If you were given a blank sheet of paper and told to design the perfect racecourse, all you would need to do is replicate York.
Everything about the course is top quality, from its layout to its prize-money and its treatment of owners and staff, and the racing is second to none.
The handicaps are fiercely competitive, juveniles from far and wide journey to the course to test their mettle and you have high-quality races ranging from the Dante to the John Smith's Cup, the Ebor and, finest of all, the Juddmonte International, regularly ranked as one of the best races in the world.
Yorkshire folk are fond of telling you how fine their county is, and their racecourse is certainly something they should rightly be proud of. If you haven't been racing there, you simply must go this year.
Discussing the return of fans to racecourses, the Racing Post editor, Tom Kerr, said: "We're thrilled to be welcoming punters back where they rightly belong, at British racing venues watching the action. Fans are the heartbeat of horse racing, the buzzing atmosphere and roar of the crowd in the big moments cannot be replaced and its not been the same without them.
“Everyone in the industry has been working tirelessly to keep racing going over the past 12 months, and racecourses – like many sport stadia – have taken a big financial hit from the lack of supporters in attendance. Aside from the racing itself, its great that racecourses will also now be able to reopen hospitality facilities and start to drive these additional income streams.
“The impact of coronavirus on the industry – and the nation – has been hugely significant, so to have fans return at Redcar, Carlisle, Windsor and Leicester makes today a monumental day for racing and sport.
"Monday’s action at these venues is a huge moment that belongs to the spectators. And with the Royal Ascot less than a month away, it’s the perfect time to be getting back into the swing of things as we shape up for a sensational summer of racing."