Johnson’s closed-door commentating at Ascot
THE head of Jersey horse racing will be offering solitary wisdom from within the gates of Royal Ascot this week as the prestigious event takes place without spectators for the first time in its 109-year history.
As the nation continues to adjust to new sporting measures, racing will begin today without pomp and ceremony while the expected 300,000 attendance has been reduced to a mere handful of staff.
Jersey Race Club president Mark Johnson is one of those permitted access for his day job, after taking the task of being lead commentator for ITV on Day Five of the annual showpiece in Berkshire.
However, the heavy restrictions at Ascot only serve as a reminder for Johnson as he contemplates what he believes could be a 24-month recovery.
‘Royal Ascot, unlike most other racing fixtures which have gone ahead since the lockdown was lifted on horse racing, has remained in the same position on the calendar,’ he explained. ‘It was due to start today and it does start today.
‘I’m very lucky because I’m someone who works in horse racing day in, day out – it’s my job – and because I live in the UK I am now able to commentate again. But it is very strange. On Sunday I was at Ascot but commentating on racing at Goodwood, because we weren’t allowed there, and when I walked around Ascot and it was like a ghost town. Normally there would be hundreds of people getting all the vendor places open, the shops ready, the bars ... it was quite weird to walk around there like that only two days beforehand.’
Discussing the expected impact on JRC affairs at Les Landes in particular, Johnson added: ‘The financial impact on the JRC with regards to not racing in 2020 is extremely hard and we now have to focus our attention on being able to raise a significant amount of money to protect racing in the Island.
‘We’re a non-profit organisation and we are like lots of other organisations and charities who are desperate to make the money they would normally hope to make through annual fundraising events. We can’t have a race night, or a gala dinner – it’s extremely difficult and we need to put our heads together to crunch as many ideas together as possible.’
Asked if adding races to the card for 2021 will be considered, to help recoup losses, Johnson replied: ‘At the moment anything could be on the table. The JRC has to have a very open view to anything and I wouldn’t say anything is out of the question.
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