Down Royal returns with a bang today - and plans are in overdrive to get punters back on the course as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Ulster Derby fixture is one of Down Royal's showpiece occasions and would have seen the venue - which has lost out on a cool £500,000 due to lockdown - packed to the rafters had it gone ahead in its usual slot last month, but these are extraordinary times and today's big race, won last year by Dadoozdart, will be run behind closed doors.
Down Royal's St Patrick's Day fixture also took place behind closed doors but this will be the course's first post-lockdown meeting with all the new protocols in place.
Down Royal boss Emma Meehan would love to see racegoers back on the course but is quick to point out that safety is by far the top priority.
Empty stands for the St Patrick's Day fixture, cancellation of the popular May Day meeting and the switch of the Summer Festival's biggest races to today have cost Down Royal about £500,000, reveals Meehan.
"Look, it's all about everyone staying safe," said the Newry-born CEO who took up her post at Down Royal just over 18 months ago.
"We would love to see people back on the course but only when it is safe to do so.
"Our St Patrick's Day, May Day and Ulster Derby Festival in June are all huge meetings, particularly the latter which was a sell-out last year. We are looking at a £500,000 loss in gross revenues, that's the level of turnover we would have enjoyed.
"But we are looking at the positives. Our Ulster Derby sponsors Boylesports have stuck with us and that's been massive for us.
"We didn't want to give up any of our fixtures to other tracks and because we are back racing now, that hasn't happened."
Racing returned to Northern Ireland last Wednesday at Downpatrick while Down Royal has already staged behind-closed-doors racing.
Meehan said: "We raced behind closed doors on St Patrick's Day so we have had a taster of it but obviously the whole process has moved on a lot since then.
"We have made the required changes and were ready to go but had to wait for racing to get the all-clear from the Northern Ireland Executive.
"As you would expect, all the social distancing measures are in place along with the numerous plastic screens. Then there are the measures which maybe aren't so obvious. The jockeys' changing area is now the function room below the main grandstand as the usual changing rooms are too small to enable social distancing. The changes have certainly been an eye-opener."
Meehan does not envisage welcoming racegoers back to the course until 2021, although refuses to rule out at least some people coming through the gates for the prestigious Winter Festival which is scheduled for October 30 and 31, particularly now that the hospitality trade is back up and running albeit in limited form.
"If numbers were capped, we have a vast site with plenty of opportunities to spectate outside. In terms of the indoor situation, one of our main function rooms holds 600 people, so could accommodate 300 while maintaining social distancing," she said.
"Our staff can use contactless devices for betting purposes as well as for ordering food and drink. So we are well placed to deal with the situation, but I think that it will be 2021 until we see people back on the course.
"I have been working during lockdown. I also home-schooled my two children while working from home. It's been stressful. Some of the staff were on furlough but have returned raring to go.
"From a standing start in 2019 we had a tremendous year and that put us on a sound footing going into lockdown. Racing behind closed doors means we have an income stream from television but the longer we have to keep going without people on the course, the more difficult things will get. We need to get back to where we left off. A second wave has to be a concern for everyone. We have to respect what everyone has been through and hope it doesn't come back.
"But we are so glad to be back. It has been a difficult time for the staff. We will work on the basis of racing behind closed doors until we hear otherwise. It's tricky because sponsorship and hospitality are closely linked and things have moved quickly these past couple of weeks so it's hard to know what stage we will be at come the Winter Festival at the end of October.
"Our situation is complicated by the fact that we fall between two stools. We are governed by Horse Racing Ireland but we have to take our lead from the Northern Ireland Executive. Ministers have been very supportive but they obviously have a wealth of other things to deal with as well and I'm sure horse racing wasn't at the top of their agenda but they still got it over the line."
And Meehan has big plans in the longer term.
"I would like us to host more fixtures and I will be making a strong case for that. We were among the front runners to host a fixture to coincide with the Aintree Grand National in April. Down Royal is renowned for its brilliant atmosphere so we want any extra fixtures to be marketable. As well as an April slot, we would also be in a position to host an extra fixture between September and the Winter Festival," said the woman who is blazing a trail in the sport after working for 14 years at Dundalk Stadium.
"There are not many female CEOs in racing but within the industry things are changing. The senior medical officer (Dr Jennifer Pugh) is female and there are more and more successful female jockeys. Then look at the success trainer Jessica Harrington has enjoyed.
"There are opportunities for women within the industry, you just have to find them. A male-dominated industry is all I have ever known. But there's change everywhere now.
"When I started at Down Royal I had to build relationships and the staff had to get to know me. The operational side of things was pretty seamless. My role here is more pressured but I do get a bit more time off to spend with my young family.
"There has been a lot to do but I love it. I am lucky to work with and for great people. We're all delighted to be racing again."
Under starters orders for the next chapter at Down Royal.