Zodiakos wins first race as British horse racing returns after coronavirus suspension

Zodiakos wins first race as British horse racing returns after coronavirus suspension

Zodiakos created history as the first winner on British horse racing’s resumption after a 76-day break because of the coronavirus lockdown.

The Welcome Back British Racing Handicap, staged behind closed doors at Newcastle’s Gosforth Park, was the first race since the UK government cleared the sport to resume.

Jockeys wore masks while strict hygiene and distancing protocols were in place.

“That has blown away the cobwebs,” said winning jockey Jimmy Sullivan.

Zodiakos, a 22-1 shot trained by Roger Fell, edged out stablemate Al Ozzdi in a thrilling battle to the line.

“In this heat today, riding in the mask, it is very warm and after pulling up, I pulled it down a little just to get a few breaths in,” added Sullivan.

“It wasn’t too bad, it’s manageable and the sort of thing that in a week you won’t even notice it.”

The Newcastle meeting features a 10-race card with a maximum of 12 runners in each race.

Those attending had to complete a three-stage screening process, including medical checks before departure and on arrival.

“It was hard work from about three and a half furlongs out but he galloped well and Roger had him spot on,” added Sullivan.

“The ground is very hard and it played to his strengths at the end. Al Ozzdi got past me but in the last 100 yards my horse’s stamina kicked in.”