Week Ahead: Royal Ascot returns with crowds of 12,000, Airedale hospital talks in Parliament and Father's Day

Spectators return to the flagship Royal Ascot races, Parliament hears about plans for a new hospital, and fathers get to relax. John Blow looks at the week ahead.

Frankie Dettori after riding Enable to win The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot Racecourse on July 25, 2020. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images.
Frankie Dettori after riding Enable to win The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot Racecourse on July 25, 2020. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images.

At the races

Crowds will return to Royal Ascot to see its famed racing and pageantry from Tuesday to Saturday.

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It forms part of the second phase of the Government’s Events Research Programme, with a capacity of 12,000 guests allowed on each of the five days in Berkshire.

Keighley MP Robbie Moore. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Attendees will be subject to pre- and post-event monitoring to gather evidence about transmission risks, but those enjoying the spectacle must produce a negative Covid-19 test result to enter.

Star jockey Frankie Dettori previously spoke about his happiness at the news that a crowd of 12,000 would be present at the flagship fixture after last year’s empty seats.

The Italian has been synonymous with the venue ever since his ‘Magnificent Seven’ in 1996 and he has high hopes that champion stayer Stradivarius will win a record-equalling fourth

Ascot Gold Cup. He described the sight of empty stands last year as being like “someone had cut my arm off”.

Speaking about this year’s event, he said: “There’s nothing better than Royal Ascot with people. I know it’s not 60,000 – but it’s better than what we thought. Well done to everybody involved that made it possible.

“Last year I was leading rider at Royal Ascot and won three Group Ones, including the Gold Cup, (and) later in the year I won the King George. To have nobody there to see any of that, it was like someone had cut my arm off.

“Those are the biggest races we’ve got here, and I won them in front of empty grandstands. It goes without saying it wasn’t the same, so I’m so happy at this news – it will put a smile on everybody’s face.”

Meanwhile, award-winning Harrogate milliner Jenny Roberts has been making hats at a galloping pace after being inundated with requests for her creations to wear at Ladies’ Day on Thursday.

Hospital hopes

Conservative Keighley MP Robbie Moore will on Tuesday lead a Parliamentary debate about a potential new hospital in Airedale.

According to Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, the current Airedale General Hospital has exceeded its expected 30-year lifespan and suffers design and maintenance issues - with “the most roof leaks in the country”, says a Trust document.

While it says measures are in place to keep patients and staff safe at the Steeton facility, which is made largely of aerated concrete, it has said “our only solution is to build a new hospital”, which would be more cost-effective.

The ambition is for Airedale to be Europe’s first carbon zero hospital, with “vast use of renewables possible due to Airedale’s 42 acre estate”.

A recently-constructed Emergency Department and Acute Assessment Unit would be retained but the new hospital is planned to contain 433 beds, an increase from the 383 within the current hospital.

The proposal is that the beds would be in single rooms with en-suite facilities to help with infection control, reflecting on the experience of Covid-19 experience.

Mr Moore has previously lobbied Ministers to make the Airedale rebuild one of eight new hospitals planned on top of 40 pledged by Conservatives in their manifesto.

The debate is due to place in Westminster Hall from 4.05pm until 4.35pm.

Fatherly fun

Reopened restaurants and pubs will likely see a roaring trade next Sunday as people celebrate Father’s Day.

The event - traditionally one of giving gifts and (often somewhat colourful) cards - happens just before the planned easing of coronavirus restrictions.