DESPITE the obvious ramifications of the coronavirus restrictions that have savagely hit racecourse attendance and revenue, Salisbury are still able to put up more than £1m prize money for their 2021 season which opens on Sunday.

The level follows the pre-epidemic total of 2019 which has been achieved by further support from the Levy Board and the executive dipping into racecourse savings.

Indeed Jeremy Martin, the clerk of the course, was painting a picture as bright as the meteorological forecast for the season and the future.

"We are absolutely looking forward to it," he said discussing prospects. "It's been a question of weathering this unfortunate storm but financially we are sound. We have raced here for 438 years and through careful financial management we are coping and have a good racing programme."

It opens on an unusual front. For once the historic City Bowl is not featured. That is simply because Sunday's card is an additional fixture granted by the British Horseracing Authority. It had been accepted last year but could not be taken up because of the lockdown.

Sadly, though the Government's roadmap is allowing a gradual easing of the restrictions, the public cannot attend for their first three meetings. Only a maximum of six owners per horse can be accommodated.

However, that will change for its following three fixtures that are set for May 29, June 8 and June 13 when the course will allow a below average crowd.

Martin envisages it will be limited to 1,000 people who includes badge holders and advance bookings through the course's website. There will be no turnstile payments.

Hopefully after the Government removes that last legal restriction on social contact on June 21, it will be business as usual.

Apart from the opening fixture, the programme will take on its traditional look with two group three races. The Sovereign Stakes and Upavon Fillies Stakes run at the consecutive August cards carry the biggest purses with the former carrying £60,000 and the latter £47,000. The Cathedral Stakes run in June will also be worth £47,000.

The one downside is that Shadwell Stud are not sponsoring for the Dick Poole Stakes in September and the unique apprentice series.

"Unfortunately, they cannot do this year but hopefully they will be able to do so in the future," said Martin who had just returned to his office after inspecting conditions. "We were watering last week and doing so again this week. The ground will be good to firm. "

The seven race card, which has attracted more than 160 entries, gets under way at 2pm with a five furlong race for two-year-olds.