Sports punters in the UK were celebrating on Monday as horse racing returned following a two month hiatus during the coronavirus lockdown.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced last week that racing was set to return, under strict conditions, and the first fixture at Newcastle on Monday proved to be a hit with punters. Many bookmaking firms recorded a significant boost in takings as racing fans had their first bets on English racing for several weeks, although the course itself was closed to spectators.

A range of betting companies said that there was a significant upturn on the usual Monday turnover. According to a spokesperson for Ladbrokes, turnover levels increased significantly. Those findings were echoed by leading betting exchange Betfair, which reported matched betting volumes of around £1 million per race, which was a significant increase on the normal level for comparable races.

Pat Cooney, of Bet365, also highlighted the benefits of 72 hours declarations and the absence of non-runners among the 120 horses entered on the card:

“It was helped by the fact that, at the time of the first race, we had 120 runners and no non-runners. With 72-hour decs, and then the sport getting the go-ahead, punters have had a long, leisurely look and we were very pleased with the levels of business. It’s certainly not a forgotten product.”

Live sport has largely been absent from the television screens of UK sports fans for the last two months, although there was been an increase in French racing in recent weeks, and Monday’s action included two well-supported races at Deauville.

The BHA has announced a provisional schedule to make up for some of the events that were lost during the last two months, which includes the peak of the Classic season, including the build up to the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. The schedule remains subject to government advice, and strict social distancing and other measures have been imposed for the foreseeable future.

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