It was Cartmel races, only much different from what we have become used to at the beautiful South Cumbria course.

Two months later than scheduled, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the season at Cartmel was finally under way yesterday for the first of three meetings, down from the nine that were planned this year.

Normally, that would mean a carnival atmosphere amongst the thousands of people that travel from Furness and the South Lakes area, but there was none of that, sadly, with Covid restrictions meaning everything was behind closed doors.

There was no music, no hospitality tents, no bookmakers making a killing from the betting punters, none of the fabulous food stalls (there were a couple serving coffee, but that was it) and, most disappointingly, no fairground.

Unfortunately, this is the ‘new normal’ that racing has had to embrace since the sport resumed on June 1, even if a few roadside spectators did mange to peer over the wall on one side of the course.

What was hard to get used to was no longer having the freedom of movement between the paddock and enclosure - those who were allowed in were kept around the grandstand and parade ring.

Among the other new experiences for this reporter was having your temperature taken on arrival and wearing a mask in areas where social distancing was difficult - for those who have never seen the press room at Cartmel, it’s a tight space at the best of times. It is, however, to the organisers’ immense credit that they put on a card of eight races to allow the jockeys to at least get down to their usual business.

And it was certainly business as usual for Champion Jockey Brian Hughes, who won the first two races of the day; first streaking clear by eight lengths on the Donald McCain-trained Totally Rejected in the St Mary’s Hospice Novices’ Hurdle.

It was a slightly closer thing when he eased Top Billing (trained by Greystoke’s Nicky Richards) past Achill Road Boy and Sam Coltherd on the run-in to win the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Handicap Hurdle.

The main race of the day, the Class 3 Uplands Inn Handicap Chase, was expertly ridden by Henry Brooke on French gelding Fort de L’Ocean, who headed the four-strong field by seven lengths after making his move after the final jump.

The most drama was provided by Novices’ Handicap Chase, which was won by Demon d’Aunou and Richie McLernon, but only after Fresh New Dawn had unseated Aiden Coleman early on and Some Ambition and Paricolor both fell.

Hughes then completed his treble by chasing down Elmono and Derek Fox on Federici at the run-in for the Cartmel Cheese Handicap Chase to give McCain his second winner of the day.

The closest finish of the day was saved until last, as Chocolat Noir, ridden by Sean Quinlan held off a strong challenge from Henry’s Joy and Abbie McCain to win the Holker Hall & Gardens Handicap Hurdle by a neck, with Barrow jockey Charlotte Jones finishing third on the James Moffatt-trained Mega Double.