AFTER much deliberation over whether or not the festival should go ahead amid continuing concerns about the Coronavirus, Cheltenham 2020 is about to burst out of the gates with only the most minor, barely-noticeable change to the regular horse-racing action.
For the first time in it’s prestigious 160 year history, the Gloucestershire event is to take place without any jockeys, trainers, backroom staff, vets, or spectators; instead relying on just the racehorses themselves to provide all the excitement and thrills of the sport of kings.
With horses not susceptible to the Covid-19 virus that has shut down many other public events, Cheltenham chiefs made the decision to ‘let them at it’, stating that jockeys were adding nothing to the mix this year except a potential form of virus community transfer.
“Nobody bets on jockeys – they bet on horses. So given the option of a festival with horses or no festival at all, we went with the sensible option,” said a spokesperson for the festival, from inside a special hermetically-sealed horsebox.
“We’re keeping on an absolute minimum amount of humans on the race-grounds for essential things like lining up the horses at the start of each race, photo finishes (horses can’t work cameras) and of course, putting injured horses to sleep.
“Basically it’s like nothing is different, just hand all of your money straight to a bookie and never see it again”.
First up today is the 1:30 Hand-sanitiser Handicap Hurdle, followed by the 2:15 Wuhan Cup.