Horses beaten by pigeons to the sporting start line in England
London: Horse racing returned after more than two months in England on Monday, but was beaten to the chase by pigeon racing as the first sport to restart following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Sport has been shut down since March but the British government on Saturday approved the return of domestic competitive action behind closed doors from June 1.
Premier League football is scheduled to resume on June 17, while cricket chiefs still hope to stage a full international programme during the English summer.
Racing has a head start for fans starved of live sport, but looks very different to when it departed before lockdown.
At Newcastle there were no spectators to watch the 10 flat races while trainers, jockeys and grooms wore masks.
Zodiakos won the first race on English soil for 76 days as the 22-1 shot edged out stablemate Al Ozzdi on the line.
“That has blown away the cobwebs,” Zodiakos’s jockey Jimmy Sullivan told Sky Sports.
“In this heat today, riding in the mask, it is very warm and after pulling up I pulled it down a little just to get a few breaths in.
“It wasn’t too bad, though, it’s manageable and it’s the sort of thing that in a week you won’t even notice it.”
The 2,000 Guineas, on June 6 at Newmarket, will be the first of the flat-racing season’s “Classic” races.
- Pigeons return ‘a blessing’ –
Earlier in the day, pigeon racing enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight.
More than 4,000 birds belonging to members of the Barnsley Federation of Racing Pigeons in the north of England were released from a park ahead of a 90-mile sprint. – AFP