First sports fans finally return after 254 days locked out as racing punters arrive at Lingfield, Ludlow and
AND they're off! Again.
Punters finally made it back to the races on Wednesday after an agonising 254 days.
Not since March 23 - when lockdown began - had the paid-up public been on course to cheer home a favourite or whack a tenner on the paddock pick.
But the turnstiles were back in action at Ludlow, Lingfield and Haydock on Wednesday.
It might have only been small steps - 500 at most at the three courses - but it was vital for a cash-strapped industry and those that rely on it for their livelihoods such as the lesser-spotted on-course bookies.
And at 11.30am the gates swung open for the Betway Welcome Back Racegoers Handicap at Lingfield.
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And those on course at Lingfield were pleased as punch when the well-fancied favourite Beat The Breeze got the business done.
Arena Racecourse's (ARC) Mark Spincer, said at Lingfield: "We're delighted. It's brilliant to see people here.
"People are working with us and I guess it's a bit of an educational process for now. Things are a bit different.
"Walkways and protocols. People have been fabulous so far.
"You're even able to get a pint from a service station and as long as you go and take it back to a seat that's fine.
"There was a bit of confusion with the lockdown ending today, though.
"At the golf course next door you can't get a tee-time tomorrow, but today we've only got one booking.
"But on course we've got between 400 and 500 people and that's probably as many as we'd get for a meeting normally at this time of year. What we haven't got is the hospitality."
For those lucky enough to get a ticket through the ballots at each track, things aren't quite what they are used to.
Facemasks and social distancing are a must and there are still no racecards, with a few areas of the course still cordoned off.
But after a bleak few months it's unlikely many will care. It'll feel like the Grand National and Gold Cup rolled into one for most.
Sporting venues in Tier 2 are allowed up to 2,000 fans - but Sky commentators at Lingfield estimated around 200 were present first thing at Lingfield, in Surrey.
Around six on-course bookmakers were present too as more and more fans started to flow in once the racing began.FREE BETS GET OVER £2,000 IN SIGN UP OFFERS HERE
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