Muted cheers sum up Doncaster atmosphere on St Leger opening day

THE quiet hurrah that met Ataser as he crossed the line in the 1.40 Nursery Handicap was both refreshing and depressing.

Young buck Ray Dawson clobbered his rivals in the shadows of the post to the cheers of a smattering of happy punters – but it only served as a reminder of what the St Leger meeting once was.

Last year’s roars were an echo as grubby face masks covered up beaming smiles and stringent protocols meant no jumping for joy.

With crowds returning for the first time since lockdown, it was a Doncaster meeting like no other.

Walking out of your designated zone brought with it swift retribution and there was strictly no mixing between owners, punters, press and stable staff.

Want a few pints? You’ve come to the wrong place.

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Unsurprisingly, the sockless brigade were absent in their bid to become the new racing elite and instead the heartwarming sight of hardened racing fans distanced their way between picnic benches.

But this was the start of something positive. 

Bookmakers were bookmaking again, staff were required again and racing sniffed at normality.

And yet as soon as things began to look up, the news arrived that the final three days are likely to be run behind closed doors – and a grey cloud once again fell over Town Moor.

It’s surely only a matter of time before racing can open its doors permanently, but the more that time goes by, the faster racecourses’ revenue runs dry.

The problem is a pressing one – and the judging on the reaction from Doncaster, the government’s response isn’t impressing anyone.

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