Cheltenham Festival 2020

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Entries & Recent Form

With the country now fully in the grip of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the BHA took the decision last week to suspend all British race meetings with immediate effect from Wednesday 18th March until the end of April at the very earliest.  The final meetings to take place on these shores were at Taunton and Wetherby on Tuesday, cards which took place behind closed doors.

This obviously sparks great concern for all businesses and employees in the industry – we very much depend on racing going ahead and we face a challenging and extremely worrying time.  The consequence of this enforcement is that many of the horses that were in training are now on a break earlier than anticipated.  The biggest problem with that is owing to the incredible amount of rain we have had over the past few months, there is no grass at present and the temperatures are yet to warm sufficiently…it is a perfect storm really.

There are some horses that will remain in training with a view to a summer campaign once it is deemed safe for racing to recommence.  When that decision is made we want to be ready to go immediately.

I understand that everything must be done to keep the spread of the virus manageable for the Health Service and also protect those people most gravely at risk.  This is of paramount importance and we continue to follow all government guidelines.

The cancellation is frustrating as the season traditionally ends on the last Saturday of April and therefore the current campaign is effectively over.  We were enjoying a fine season with 64 winners on the board, whilst we were in a very good ninth place in the trainers’ championship.  When you consider the numbers at our disposal it was a tremendous effort – many will be unaware that we sent out more winners than the likes of Colin Tizzard, Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain and co. despite considerably fewer runners.

I was particularly proud of our winners to runners ratio this term.  Indeed, with 49% of the horses to have run for us during the season winning at least one race, we boasted a strike rate higher than any other stable in the top ten of the championship, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls included.  We remain extremely grateful to our tremendously loyal owners for their continued patronage and hope for even wider ranging support on the back of this strong showing next season and beyond.

Fact Our Final Winner

Our final winner of the campaign fittingly was Main Fact (pictured above) who has turned into one of the best stories of the season.  I purchased Main Fact from the Doncaster Sales for only £6,000 and he has been a revelation, improving a scarcely believable 3½ stones (or 49lbs) in the space of only 3 months to a new handicap mark of 147 and taking his lucky owners, The Munrowd’s Partnership on an amazing journey along the way.

Aside from Main Fact, there were many other highlights during the course of the season.  Ramses de Teillee reverted from fences to hurdles seamlessly, notching Grade 2 successes at Doncaster and Haydock along the way.  Israel Champ added a couple of Listed bumper wins and looks a most promising type for future hurdles and chases, whilst the ill-fated and much missed Warthog was a most brave winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December.

Going forward we have a very nice group of youngsters to look forward to next season and beyond, including the likes of Brinkley, Kepagge, Make Me A Believer, Martinhal and Induno to name but a few.  They all displayed enormous promise in winning races this season and are among those to be excited about.

Ireland Races On

The Irish took the decision last week to continue to stage racing behind closed doors for the time being.  It is a measure that flies in the face of every other country in Europe, although countries further afield such as America, Australia, South Africa and Japan continue to race.

Unsurprisingly the situation is evolving all of the time and the French, who decided to cancel racing on 16th March for a month are cautiously optimistic about resuming at the end of that timescale.

The popularity of the Thurles meeting that was covered by ITV on Saturday with the betting public demonstrates that the sport is an extremely important part of the economy.  With the start of the turf season in Ireland commencing today, hopefully they will be able to show that racing can be run safely behind closed doors and that we can get back to business sooner rather than later.  Right now these countries are very much the shop window for racing and the sporting world at present; let’s hope they have made the correct decision.

Primary School Stuff

With the schools now closed for the foreseeable future the children have been doing plenty of work from home.  Mind you, I have seen some of the questions they have been set by the school and they scare the life out of me!  For a bit of fun I even had the ‘brains trust’ in the office take a look at one of the questions and it took a few minutes of head scratching before they could come up with a viable answer.  I’m certainly pleased that my school days were long ago.

Thank you to everyone for their continued interest and support during these uncertain times.  Stay safe and well and let’s look forward to some better times ahead…