Riders jostle for position during a race at the Greyville Racecourse in Durban. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ANESH DEBIKY
Riders jostle for position during a race at the Greyville Racecourse in Durban. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ANESH DEBIKY

Optimism is the name of the game regarding the resumption of racing in two countries — SA and England — next Monday June 1.

In SA, Gold Circle, which runs racing in KwaZulu-Natal, is gearing up for a meeting on the polytrack at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Monday. It said the draft provision of level 3 of lockdown is expected to be gazetted on Thursday or Friday and is expected to include permission for non-contact sports.

Consequently, it has called for entries for Monday so it does not lose valuable time and the long-awaited time slot.

In England, there is a growing belief — but not yet confirmed by the government — that racing will return on Monday with an eight-race card on the all-weather track at Newcastle.

The case for resumption in England may have gained momentum as a result of the Irish government’s decision to bring racing back three weeks earlier than originally planned. It was scheduled to resume on June 29 but will now restart on June 8.

A spokesperson said: “Meetings won’t be open to spectators for the foreseeable, but it’s a big economic sector and a lot of people are employed in it.”

Entries for the two meetings are almost identical — 376 for Greyville and 369 for Newcastle.

The entry at Newcastle is twice as large as would be expected at the northern track at this time of year. It indicates how keen trainers are to get their horses running after the sport has been in shutdown since March 19.

Many of the UK’s top trainers have made entries from their stables, including John Gosden, Michael Stoute, Roger Varian, Hugo Palmer and Charlie Hills. Jockeys already booked for rides include champion Silvestre De Sousa, Andrea Atzeni and Jim Crowley.

The leading trainer at Newcastle for the past five seasons has been Richard Fahey and the stable has made 33 entries for the Newcastle meeting. He told reporters: “The prep is done at home and the racetrack is where we finish the job.”

Three horses who excelled at Newcastle last term — Lion Hearted, Tathmeen and Ice Pyramid — feature among the large entry and look certain to be well supported if the meeting takes place.

Lion Hearted is the best-known of this trio as this member of Mick Appleby’s stable won four races in succession in 2019 — three of them at Newcastle. However, the suspicion remains that the handicapper might now have the gelding’s measure.

Another Newcastle specialist is trainer Antony Brittain’s charge Tathmeen. Five of the horse’s seven victories have come at Newcastle.

Perhaps the best betting proposition of the trio will be five-year-old Ice Pyramid. A member of Philip Kirby’s stable, he recorded two wins and two places at Newcastle last term and is set to start the new season on a handy handicap mark.