Freedom at last on a racecourse? Hold your horses, let's not have another Cheltenham and keep this show on the road

RACING freedom from Monday – but how long that lasts is down to you and me. Yes, YOU and ME. 

Compared to a global pandemic, horse racing is a small world.

But as a sport we all found out in March 2020 that the Sport of Kings could quickly become part of a world discussion. 

Some, quite unfairly, blamed the Cheltenham Festival for increasing Covid cases in the UK. At that stage few knew what was ahead, and government encouraged people to carry on with ‘normal’ life. But racing copped the flak. 

Now, though, as the only sport which has significant crowds on a daily basis the authorities are pleading with us all to take personal responsibility for limiting the chance of any further lockdowns. And also preventing racing to end up with a bad name. 

Press releases from the Racecourse Association have been headed with the words: “British Horseracing Welcomes Safe Return of Racegoers”. The word ‘safe’ is key. 

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Because behind the scenes authorities are worried – Covid numbers are on the rise and death rates have been clearly increasing over the last couple of weeks. 

Soon to retire super doc Jerry Hill, who has been quite brilliant for the British Horseracing Authority, told me: “The Key to a successful return is maximising vaccine uptake in combination with us all taking personal responsibility to protect each other with mask wearing, making best use of the space on racecourses, accessing regular NHS Lateral Flow Testing and staying home and getting a PCR test if any hint of illness. 

“We have all learnt and practiced the behaviours that keep us safe we should now follow them because we choose to not because we are told to.” 

Matt Chapman’s Saturday Tips

1.50 Newbury – Solid Stone (EW)

2.25 Newbury – Zeeband

3.00 Newbury – King's Lynn

3.40 Newbury – Gubass (EW)

2.05 Market Rasen – Red Force One (EW – NAP)

2.40 Market Rasen – Francky du Berlais (EW)

3.10 Market Rasen – Taste the Fear

3.25 Curragh – Snowfall

RCA chief executive David Armstrong added: "We thank all our racegoers for the responsible behaviour they have shown since they were able to return to racecourses and we are very excited to welcome back all racegoers from Monday in England and later in August in Wales and Scotland. As an outdoor event, people can have confidence in attending a race meeting in safety. 

"Nevertheless, we encourage all to continue to follow the recommended advice and in particular, to check on any restrictions that are still in place in Scotland and Wales. The safety of our racegoers will always be our top priority. "

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