There was no parade of royals, no throng of fashionable spectators in top hats and fascinators. But the normally glamorous Royal Ascot horse racing meeting still got underway as usual on Tuesday.
Also missing was the enthusiastic racing fan Queen Elizabeth, for the first time in her 68-year reign as sovereign. “I am sure,” she wrote in a statement, “it will remain one of Britain’s finest sporting occasions.”
The four-day event was immortalized in “My Fair Lady” by Eliza Doolittle, who shocks a crowd of toffs by earthily urging on her horse.
This year is the first time there are no spectators at the nonfictional Ascot. Before the first race, there were a handful of people in the paddock keeping a respectful distance from one another.
The customarily huge fields, as many as 30 horses, were cut to a maximum of 24 to abet social distancing, and the jockeys and officials all wore masks.
At least one trainer, Mark Johnston, who recovered from Covid-19 in April, said the safety measures were more than enough. “If anything, the precautions are over the top,” he told the BBC. “We’re out in a big open space, built for tens of thousands of people, with only a couple of hundred people there. So the precautions are more than adequate. I think the risk of viral transmission is very, very low indeed.”
The racing was top class, including two Group 1 races on Tuesday and more to come the rest of the week. The first race, the Buckingham Palace Handicap, was won by Motakhayyel under jockey Jim Crowley.
For One Minor League, Play Ball
While Major League Baseball and the players’ union continued to squabble about restarting their season, at least one league, the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, will begin its season, on July 3.
The minor league, which is based in the Midwest and independent of Major League Baseball, has been in existence since 2005. Six of its 12 teams will participate in the 2020 season, based in three hub cities: Fargo, N.D.; Milwaukee; and Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Chicago Dogs, Milwaukee Milkmen, Sioux Falls Canaries, Winnipeg Goldeyes, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and St. Paul Saints, the defending champions, will play. The regular season will be cut to 60 games, down from the usual 100.
The teams playing were chosen mostly on geography, with several more southerly teams left out. “We were excited for the opportunity to play baseball in 2020,” Mark Brandmeyer, a new owner of the Kansas City T-Bones, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it will now take another year for our vision to be realized.”
The league plans to make about 25 percent of the seats available for fans to abet social distancing.
Tokyo Olympics … 2022?
Could the momentous decision to delay the Summer Olympics for a year be topped by a momentous decision to delay them for two years?
Haruyuki Takahashi, an executive on the organizing committee, said that if the Games could not be held in 2021 for economic or health reasons, “I will postpone it again,” he told Nikkan Sports.
Other members of the organizing committee and International Olympic Committee officials have said that the Tokyo Games will be canceled if they cannot be held in 2021.
Toshio Muto, secretary general of the organizing committee, said Tuesday of Takahashi’s statement, “I recognize it as an opinion.”