AFTER an absence of more than nine months, horses will finally come under starter's orders at Salisbury.

That is the good news - the bad is that the racing public is banned.

Under the coronavirus restrictions, all the action will take place behind closed doors, and there is little prospect of the situation changing until September, despite the increasing clamour for social distancing to be halved to one metre.

The course has been granted four fixtures, the first an evening card on July 11 which is tradtionally one of the most popular on their season as it's Ladies Night.

The other three are Sunday August 9, Thursday August 13, and Friday August 21, all afternoon affairs.

Salisbury, which has staged racing since the 16th century, has been badly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic with half a dozen of its scheduled fixtures abandoned with the loss of the historic City Bowl and the valuable Cathedral Stakes.

However, it could have put on a meeting behind closed doors this month but decided not to do so.

Course supremo Jemery Martin - who incidentally is recovering from a broken heel after falling from a ladder two and a half months ago - told the Journal: "We opted out of racing this month to give us more time to prepare and see how it went but we are shaping up to have seven or eight meetings, about half our normal amount. We are certainly looking forward to the day when we can open our gates to the public in some form or other but at the moment we don't know when that will be, but when it does come, it will truely wonderful."

Naturally his immediate attention is focused on their first meeting.

"Preparations are ongoing including the maintenance of the course and I hope we get some significant rain as the ground is very dry."

Additional expenditure has been spent on adhering to the strict healthy safety guidelines, including the purchase of £800 worth of sanitising gel.

What shape the fixture will take is unknown as the British Horseracing Authority are dictating the national programme and it will be about another fortnight before courses around the country will have an update of what they will be putting on for the foreseeable future.

However Martin remains confident that Salisbury's two richest races of the season, the Sovereign Stakes and the Upavon Stakes, will be staged in August but whether they will be staged on one afternoon or are the feature races on their two days remains to be seen.