Kim Bailey on the new National Hunt season: ‘Champions will be crowned, hearts will be broken’

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  • Kim Bailey welcomes the return of crowds to the home of jump racing and champions a brilliant initiative

    IT was so great to be back at Cheltenham last weekend. The home of jump racing opened its doors to the public for the first time in 18 months showcasing good racing in front of enthusiastic, race loving crowds. Our runner did not disappoint, Does He Know returned to Cheltenham after winning two hurdle races there last season, this time over fences; he put up a stellar performance for the Yes He Does syndicate, who were able to attend and celebrate his success.

    Jump racing has certainly held its appeal after a year without crowds, the excitement of being back at Cheltenham was huge, the atmosphere throughout the course was electric and it really brought the adrenaline back into racing.

    Promoting our sport

    THE racing industry has been coming together to promote our much-loved sport. This summer we opened our doors for National Racehorse Week, a brilliant initiative which enabled us to welcome people behind the scenes to see first-hand the love, care and attention that goes into looking after them. In an experience like no other, 132 racing training yards up and down the country opened their doors in September 2021 to showcase the fantastic lives that these magnificent animals lead.

    This was followed by a celebration of Racing Staff Week, which turned the spotlight onto our hard-working team, highlighting the roles across the industry that often go unseen.

    Like every National Hunt racing stable, we are so excited about the future. Last season’s champions will have to improve, future stars will emerge, and I just hope that we have the odd one that we will be able to make the limelight.

    The highs and lows of last season saw a welcomed Grade One winner for us with First Flow’s win at Ascot – he again should have a good winter if the rain keeps coming as he loves the mud. Espoir De Romay was probably the unluckiest loser, so close to a second Grade One victory when he landed too steeply and fell two from home at Aintree. To try to make sure we don’t have the same fate this season, we have had Olympic eventer Laura Collett in for some schooling lessons; fingers crossed he has learnt a great deal from this champion rider.

    We will welcome back last season’s champions, both four and two legged. Rachael Blackmore stole the hearts and minds of every race goer last winter and she did more for the sport that we can ever believe. She is such an amazing ambassador for the sport of jump racing and a worthy champion after all those huge wins at Cheltenham and Aintree which obviously included the Grand National. Last winter was all about the Irish winning all the big races and time will tell if that is repeated this season. It will be hard to beat them, but I have a feeling we will do far better this year.

    So we embark on a winter of jump racing and all it will give us, champions will be crowned, hearts will be broken but it will be great to be back on the racecourse to experience the thrill.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 28 October

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