York racecourse boss William Derby welcomed the sight of busy grandstands as the track hosted its first unrestricted crowd for 18 months.
The Knavesmire, along with Ascot hosting the first full Saturday attendance since the relaxation of coronavirus measures this week, staged the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes – with live music from Rick Astley and then McFly providing added entertainment after racing over the past two days.
York was almost full to capacity on Saturday, with remaining walk-up tickets available only in the centre of the track.
“We’re really pleased that racegoers can return in more normal numbers today,” said Derby, chief executive and the clerk of the course.
“We raced yesterday evening, and it tasted a bit like normality. We’re pleased to be back today, with great racing and music again tonight.
“We had about 10,000 last night and we think about 30,000 today. We reached our capacity on the stands’ side – but people could turn up for the Clock Tower enclosure in the middle of the course today, where they can enjoy their picnics, the seven races and the music.”
The meeting comes ahead of next month’s Ebor Festival, York’s headline fixture and one which is likely to attract similar numbers.
“It’s been a long 18 months for everyone in the country,” added Derby.
“It’s great we’re back – and from our perspective, we’re looking forward to next month for our flagship meeting, the Ebor Festival.
“We’re pleased to be getting back and having a successful rest of the year. People seem to be enjoy being back out and bringing a bit of normality to their lives.”
A crowd of nearly 15,000 attended Ascot to watch Adayar back up his Derby victory with a convincing success in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.
“There’s something very special when a horse goes straight from the Derby to the Arc and there was no hiding place today,” said Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at the track.
“That was a perfect horse race. Sometimes the King George produces a hero and sometimes it confirms a hero but I think the public love to engage with three-year-olds.
“This isn’t just Ascot’s midsummer showpiece, it is Flat racing’s highlight of the summer and today it certainly lived up to its billing.
“It takes a special Derby winner to win this which sometimes gets lost, but today what made it so special was the strength of the older horses. The winner has clearly got so much more to give as he was such a late developer.
“And of course, the big thing today was the crowd. To hear them cheering the horses home and then the reception William (Buick, winning rider) got when he came back in, it was brilliant.”