H&H’s racing columnist appreciates racing’s continuation under the second lockdown
It is not hard to see why Paul Nicholls has been champion trainer 11 times. On Saturday, he brought Cyrname back from a shocking fall and a difficult 2020 season to win this year’s renewal of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in emphatic style.
This year’s field was probably the strongest ever. It is a race that I have been lucky to win before with Harry Topper and I was very hopeful that I could do so again with the “apple of my eye” Vinndication, who was backed into favouritism by the general public – like myself, they believed Cyrname wouldn’t win left-handed over three miles, two things he had so far failed to do in his illustrious career.
But it was not to be as Cyrname simply never came off the bridle and beat Vinndication into second, as Cyrname, the highest-rated chaser in the country, should have done. He was impressive and I was one of the first to congratulate the winning trainer.
Saturday was an important day for our sport. It has been a difficult year with racing suffering from the “new normal”. We are passionate about what we do and are fortunate to have it as a way of life. Losing the crowds at the races has taken away the all-important atmosphere on raceday and we have all become reliant on watching the sport more on television.
We are living in a hugely difficult time but racing thankfully is a professional sport – so, as I type, we are allowed to carry on as normal, albeit without owners or crowds. The British Horseracing Authority have played a blinder. They have been prepared for a second lockdown, and for that we must be thankful.
Racecourses have done a brilliant job, making a dull experience on raceday better than anyone had hoped for – so well done to them. It is certainly a challenging period for many and I do worry about how many courses will struggle should the pandemic continue into 2021.
Only as good as your team
The Flat season is now all but over and the jumpers are coming out in force to keep us busy during the winter months to come. I certainly went into March’s lockdown believing that we would come out 20% down on horse numbers, but thankfully that has not been the case. We have a full yard of about 70 horses and possibly the best bunch I have trained for some years.
You are only as good as your team and I have an excellent assistant in Mat Nicholls, head lad in George Savill, travelling head girl in Leigh Pollard and a brilliant syndicate manager in Peter Kerr. I do believe that syndicates are the way forward, and it was fantastic that Does He Know won at Cheltenham for us on 23 October. Ten members of the Yes He Does Syndicate were able to lap up their Cheltenham winner and experience it with great appreciation.
Syndicates offer so much for so many, and this was evident when our Imperial Aura won at the Cheltenham Festival in March for the Imperial Racing Team, led by Ian Robinson. The seven-year-old gelding is a star for our yard. Last Sunday, he showed he is a horse to be reckoned with for this season when winning an intermediate chase at Carlisle.
Let’s hope we survive what is thrown at us, while enjoying the sport we love.
Ref Horse & Hound; 5 November 2020