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Kim Bailey: the Cheltenham Festival won’t be the same without owners *H&H Plus*

Opinion

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  • LAST weekend saw some cracking jump racing. One of the reasons it was so good was the fact that the racecourses, sponsors and the British Horseracing Authority were quick-witted enough to reschedule meetings that fell by the wayside the weekend before, due to the awful weather.

    My yard benefited from Warwick being restaged four days later when Two For Gold and Kyntara won there. Kyntara’s impressive win in the bumper gave my stable jockey David Bass his 50th winner of the season.

    Newbury’s rescheduled Betfair on Sunday was certainly dazzling. The O’Neill father-and-son team must have been thrilled that the big hurdle race was restaged, as their Soaring Glory absolutely bolted up in the Betfair Hurdle – a well-conceived plan coming to fruition? It was son Jonjo’s biggest win for father Jonjo – and a great way to repay the school fees!

    Bryony Frost out-rode Harry Cobden in the Denman Chase; I say that very much tongue in cheek as the two Paul Nicholls’ horses battled it out right to the line and the outsider of the two, Secret Investor, beat Clan Des Obeaux. It was another cracker to watch with the two top-class jockeys going head to head. It was ladies first this time.

    On Saturday at Ascot, the small stable of Jeremy Scott won the big race of the day, the Grade One Ascot chase with his home-bred Dashel Drasher. It was the day for the small trainer as Richard Hobson won the Grand National Trial at Haydock with Lord Du Mesnil.

    Countdown to Cheltenham Festival

    It is just over two weeks to the Cheltenham Festival. One year ago, it was the last big crowd-attended event ahead of lockdown, much criticised and wrongfully so for going ahead, but sadly 12 months later we are no closer to seeing those big crowds again.

    So much has happened over the past 12 months and now at least all those Cheltenham preview evenings have gone. Personally, I never really enjoyed doing them unless they were for charity. We all have opinions as to who might win, so sitting on a stage and expressing mine – when most in the audience disagreed with my thoughts – seemed a strange way to spend an evening.

    I always helped out Ed Chamberlin with his WellChild Cheltenham preview evening and now Ed has the chance, due to a lack of sponsorship, to have his charity calling the shots for this year’s Cheltenham Festival meeting, which is highlighted by the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

    Ed and his ITV Racing team deserve huge credit for the coverage they have given racing over the past 12 months. Ed and his team are passionate about our sport and it shows, and without terrestrial TV we would soon be missed or forgotten, so we really do have to thank our lucky stars that ITV won the contract to televise racing.

    Racing faces many challenges and the next few months are crucial to our survival. The most important event will be the return of owners to the racecourse. They need to be back on the track. I hope and pray Boris Johnson will recognise that fact – and the fact that providing they stay out in the fresh air, they are unlikely to catch Covid.

    Owners are the backbone to racing and without them, we as a sport would be lost. Of course crowds are needed, too, but if we are going to take it one step at a time, then owners must come first.

    The thought of the Festival in the form that racing is taking place at the moment is depressing. Can you imagine celebrating owning your first Festival winner at home? Dreams are made in racing and jump-racing dreams are all about being in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham with your horse.

    Also published in H&H magazine, 25 February, 2021

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