As I write, rumours are circulating that elite sport may possibly be put on hold for a month to coincide with the latest strengthening of the lockdown effort in England.
This of course would come as another blow to the horse racing industry which has been soldiering on behind closed doors since June of last year, but was also a casualty of the nationwide lockdown from March to June 2020.
Not only would the move be detrimental to the elite sports themselves, but it would also have a knock on negative effect on the mental well-being of sports fans that are pretty reliant on sport being regularly available on television to raise their spirits.
Let’s hope it’s all just a rumour, but we have to be prepared for more disappointments.
The town of Cheltenham could lose in the region of £100 million if the Cheltenham Festival is held without fans, which it almost certainly will be.
Cheltenham narrowly missed out on any economic heartache last year as The Festival just scraped in by the skin of it’s teeth and was held in full before the UK went into a national lockdown.
Scenes of packed stands will be non-existent this year with Ian Renton, director of Cheltenham Racecourse, saying he believes a maximum of 2,000 people a day will be able to attend the event, which usually houses up to 70,000 spectators on Gold Cup Day.
It is entirely plausible that Renton may not even get the 2,000 “actors” through the gate, with the entire four days being held behind closed doors and only essential staff permitted on site.
The worst case scenario would be that the Government may still not be in a position to allow elite sports to take place in mid-March, however that seems extremely unlikely at this juncture with a mass vaccination programme currently being rolled out.
Weighing Room Talk
On Sunday it was announced that BHA were planning to investigate the weighing-room treatment of Bryony Frost after Frost herself implied in a recent article with The Guardian’s Donald McRae, that all was not right behind the scenes.
Originally many people could be forgiven for thinking that McRae’s article title: Bryony Frost: ‘Some people will always frown. Opinions are not facts’, was going to contain a story about Frost being hassled and bullied by trolls on Twitter – like many sports people sadly are, but Frost doesn’t have a Twitter account so the article took on a completely new narrative, i.e- the problem is coming from within.
Bryony Frost became the first woman to win the Grade 1 King George VI Chase on Boxing Day aboard the 20/1 outsider Frodon, and on Saturday she gave Yala Enki a great ride to finish third in the rescheduled Welsh Grand National.
Whatever beef there is going on the weighing rooms needs to be nipped in the bud quickly, because there is no doubt that Frost brings a positive image to the sport of horse racing, and to outsiders, sport is all about perceptions.
It was in doubt for a second time last week but the Welsh Grand National finally got the green light on Saturday morning and it was won by the Evan Williams-trained Secret Reprieve.
The well-fancied 5/2 favourite, ridden by Adam Wedge, gave Welsh trainer Evan Williams his first taste of home glory after he had previously trained a runner-up, a third and two fourth places.
After a 54-year hiatus for a Welsh-trained winner, two have now come along together after Christian Williams’ Potters Corner won the race last year.
Seven-year-old Secret Reprieve was running in the colours of owners Angela and William Rucker and will probably now be aimed at the Aintree Grand National, for which he is a general 25/1 chance*.
Naas To See You
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) have excelled themselves once again by quickly rescheduling an entire meeting after it was lost to the weather.
Sunday’s Naas meeting, which includes the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle, will now be held on Wednesday. The Willie Mullin’s trained Blue Lord at 3/1 with BetVictor is our column NAP bet.
* Betting odds quoted were correct at the time of writing. All odds are subject to change.