Restrictions throughout Britain have had a major impact on sport, not least on horse racing. Sadly, just days after tens of thousands of fans enjoyed world class racing at the Cheltenham Festival, the news came through that the Grand National meeting at Aintree would be cancelled. Then, the very next day, the British Horseracing Authority announced that all horse racing in Britain would be cancelled until May at the very earliest.
Could British Racing Return Behind Closed Doors?
Horse racing is a big industry in Britain which supports thousands upon thousands of jobs and is a key part of the economy in many parts of the country. Everybody involved in the sport and the millions of racing fans were disappointed with the authorities’ decision, whilst at the same time understanding the severity of the situation and the need for racing to shoulder some of the burden.
There is some hope that racing might return in May if Britain is able to follow Ireland in the period after Cheltenham where they held limited race meetings behind closed doors and with some strict restrictions. It was strange to see racing happen without fans but trainers all over Ireland were delighted to have the chance to run their horses in competitive contests, bookies offered odds and punters had something to bet on.
The BHA have said they will continue talking to government authorities to try and bring racing back as soon as possible and to ensure the sport remains as strong as can be once it returns. That throws up the potential for racing to resume behind closed doors, even if it is of a very limited.
Irish Racing Also Off After Running Behind Closed Doors
As we mention above, despite carrying on across in Ireland for almost two weeks behind closed doors, horse racing finally succumbed with all racing ceasing from the 25th March until the 19th April at the earliest. The country had their first turf flat race of the season from Naas but will now miss some of the last big jumps meetings including Fairyhouse’s Easter Festival which holds the Irish Grand National. Also cancelled is the Punchestown Festival which was scheduled for five days between the 28th April and the 2nd of May.
A Wonderful Cheltenham Whets the Appetite for Next Year
The cancellation of racing for the rest of March and April effectively means the end of the jumps season. It’s a real shame to lose the Grand National meeting but punters saw plenty of top class performances from this year’s Cheltenham Festival to take positions on who will be the stars of the various divisions for next season.
Al Boum Photo was the big star of Cheltenham as he joined an elite list of horses to have won back to back Cheltenham Gold Cups. Providing there are no setbacks, he will be back to try and complete the hat-trick next season but should face a stiffer test with some top class novices likely to enter the picture. Delta Work and Santini have time to improve from this year’s showing whilst Champ’s stunning win in the RSA Chase marked him out as a potential Gold Cup winner providing he can clean up his jumping.
Other potential stars of next year’s Cheltenham include Envoi Allen who could just as conceivably win the Queen Mother Champion Chase as the Stayers’ Hurdle. Goshen, who was home and hosed in the Triumph Hurdle before agonisingly falling at the last flight, should be a major player in the Champion Hurdle in which Abracadabras should also be a major player.
Could We See a Top Class Return?
If British racing is able to return at the start of May, we’re left with the tantalising prospect of the first fixture back being the Guineas meeting at Newmarket. Even if it’s not possible for such a dream return, we could be in an unprecedented situation where the highest profile meetings and the biggest races take place in a compacted period of time.
It remains to be seen when racing will be able to return in Britain and in what form. What we do know for sure is that there is plenty to look forward to on the flat. The Classics, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood are just a few of the racing highlights looming on the horizon. There are serious doubts about whether they will be able to take place though and almost certainly not with fans in attendance, but there are no doubts about the quality of what lies ahead if meetings are permitted to take place behind closed doors.