As sports fans, we’re all longing for the day when we can return to some kind of normality, and sporting events will be splashed across our TV screens once again. The coronavirus pandemic has seen the vast majority of sporting competitions across the world put on hold, as governments impose various lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures to help thwart the spread of the virus.
Horse racing has been heavily affected by all of this, as you would expect. While the sport went on behind closed doors following the Cheltenham Festival in the middle of March, eventually the government’s guidelines on mass gatherings ensured that all events had to be cancelled. One of the key results of this is that the jumps season has been curtailed, with Brian Hughes named Champion Jockey for the 2019/20 campaign.
Horse racing in Britain is still completely suspended, although both Germany and France have announced that competitions will be getting back underway there in early May – proof that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be too far away as far as British and Irish racing is concerned. There is a sense that when horse racing, and indeed other sports, resume, it will be a real boost for the general public, and a sign that a return to our normal way of living is on the horizon.
For many sports enthusiasts, the lockdown imposed by the government has been made even more difficult by the lack of live sporting action to watch on television. In horse racing, the Virtual Grand National was held after the original was forced into being cancelled. While it was a fun occasion, enjoying its usual 5pm slot on ITV television, a computerised race doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing, and most horse racing fans have been pining for the real National to grace our screens once again.
When horse racing does return, there will be an increased appreciation for the sport amongst its loyal fanbase. It’s easy to take sport for granted, but its absence from our screens has made us more keenly aware of its importance in our lives, and horse racing is no different. Those whose biggest passion is analysing the different horses and jockeys, poring over the racecards for every racecourse before enjoying the unique thrill of the live action, will have been left lamenting the effect this global crisis has had on the horse racing industry.
The return of racing will mean the return of something which distracts people from the more stressful circumstances in their lives, providing welcome relief for those who have found lockdown difficult.
There will also be a great collective spirit within the sport when the action gets underway. This newfound appreciation of the sport will affect trainers, jockeys and punters alike, and although social distancing measures will likely still be in place for a while, there will be an atmosphere of joy and relief that one of the great distractions in life is back in full flow. Let’s all hope that day isn’t too far away.