We truly are in an unprecedented period of time, as events continue to be cancelled around the world, with the sporting industry badly affected. This is all down to the coronavirus that has spread around the world and across the UK, following it’s early emergence in the period of February.
One event that did go ahead was the Cheltenham festival in March, which is always one of the most popular sports betting events of the year. 2020 was no different, with high numbers of crowds in attendance across the four days, despite the numbers being down on recent years.
Whilst the visitor numbers were down, the bookies revenue – both online and offline, certainly wasn’t. Venue-based bookmakers may have reported less in terms of transaction numbers as a result of lower crowds, but the same can’t be said for their major online counterparts listed at SBO, with online sportsbooks seeing an upsurge in stakes for another consecutive year. And these bookies won’t have been disappointed when it came to the results – hot, and short-priced, favourites including Benie Des Dieux, Tiger Roll and Paisley Park all contributing to the operator’s purse over the course of the week.
The festival came under much pressure to both go ahead and to be cancelled, and in hindsight this should probably have been cancelled, looking at the severity of the situation and how quickly the virus has spread.
Despite this, it was a hugely successful festival, with the Irish again dominating and landing the Prestbury cup. This was due to incredible festivals from both Mullins and Elliott, who continue to be the leading forces of National hunt racing and this is set to continue moving forward. Mullins eventually landed the leading trainers title with a memorable final day, as Al Boum Photo won his second consecutive Cheltenham Gold cup and all roads will now lead to a third title, as he will be aiming to emulate the likes of Cottage Rake and Arkle as three time winners.
Elliott also had great success but surprisingly saw Tiger Roll beaten in the Cross Country chase, as he looked to win a fifth festival race in his memorable career. This still did appear to be a solid prep run, as his main aim had always been a tilt at a third Grand national in succession. Unfortunately for the horse, he was unable to race with the national being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jockey club stated that “it is no longer appropriate to stage the event”, following advice from the government that mass gatherings should not be taking place. The racecourse had been looking at possibilities of the race taking place behind closed doors, which is something that has come up in much discussion across a number of sports. However, the race did not take and place and the racing public did not get the chance to see if Tiger Roll could make history. Despite this, there is some positive news, as his trainer has stated that he will be back next season looking to win the race.
Following this, it has been cancellation after cancellation, and it would now appear we have seen the end of the national hunt season this campaign. We are now moving into the early period of the flat season and have yet to see any key action, with the classic generation races nearing. This includes the Guineas meeting at Newmarket and of course the Derby at Epsom racecourse. Both have been ‘postponed’, with the view to these now taking place later in the season, once racing has returned. Each are very important meetings in the early careers of horses, so it is of such great importance that these races are ran.
All roads are now leading to Royal Ascot, which is one of the key meetings of the racing season, with horses travelling over to contest from around the world. But will the Royal meeting also be next to be cancelled? The racecourse have already stated that if it is to go ahead in 2020, then there will be no crowds in attendance and it will be taking place behind closed doors. They appear to be doing everything possible for this great meeting to go ahead, which is so important for many connections around the world. It is now simply a waiting game and we can only hope the situation continues to improve and normality returns, with racing and sport in general returning within the near future.