The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us, but things are set to be very different at Prestbury Park in 2021 due to Covid-19.
No Spectators will be present during the four-day meeting – where Paddy Power are offering non-runner money back on every single race – while amateur jockeys will not be permitted to ride at this year’s equine extravaganza due to public health restrictions.
Cheltenham Festival: Why are amateur jockeys banned from the 2021 festival?
Three races at the Cheltenham Festival – the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, and the St James’s Place Festival Hunter Chase – are traditionally reserved solely for amateur riders while several of these leading jockeys also regularly compete against the professionals in other contests.
However, the UK government’s suspension of amateur and grassroots sports in an effort to combat Covid-19 extends up until March 29 and the British Horseracing Authority has brought its own restrictions in line with these measures.
That means a number of high-profile amateur riders are therefore set to miss the 2021 festival, including Patrick Mullins and Jamie Codd.
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Mullins refused to rule out the prospect of turning professional in order to race at Cheltenham, where the other 25 races are categorised as elite sporting contests and can subsequently take place.
Son of legendary trainer Willie Mullins, Patrick is the most successful amateur of all-time and would have been looking to add to his four festival winners with rides expected on Sharjah in the Champion Hurdle, Kilcruit in the Champion Bumper and Billaway in the St James’ Place Festival Hunter Chase.
Speaking after the BHA’s decision, he said: “I’m very disappointed about this development. Obviously I had a very good book of rides so I will have to give some very serious thought as to whether I turn professional or not.”
However, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board states: ”Any individual applying for a professional licence will be required to demonstrate their intent to remain as a professional jockey and not to just take out a licence to circumvent current public health restrictions.”
Codd, who is the leading amateur at the Cheltenham Festival with 10 winners and was expected to ride Sir Gerhard for Gordon Elliott in the Champion Bumper, revealed he will have to be content cheering on at home.
“For us qualified riders in Ireland, and the amateurs in England, it’s a huge blow,” he said.
“Cheltenham is where we really like to be competing and showcasing our status. It’s hugely disappointing, but the UK Government have made their decision and fingers crossed we can all get back for the Foxhunters’ Chase in Aintree.”
Cheltenham Festival amateur races
March 16 – 16.50 – National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup
March 18 – 16.50 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup
March 19 – 15.40 – St James’s Place Festival Hunter Chase
Cheltenham Festival: Are fans allowed to attend Cheltenham 2021?
Unfortunately that’s a no-go and it looks unlikely to change. A week in front of the TV it is then…
Cheltenham released the following statement addressing the issue of fans at the festival in 2021.
“Based on current Government restrictions, professional sport is able to continue under stringent health and safety protocols, without spectators present. In horseracing’s case this is vital to support the livelihoods of the many thousands of people who rely on the industry and for the welfare of the thousands of Thoroughbred racehorses who live and train in Britain.
“This means that under current restrictions, The Festival will take place as a televised event, but sadly without spectators at the course. We continue to monitor Government guidance and should this change in advance of The Festival we will act accordingly.”
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL‘S BIG RACES
March 16 – 13.20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 16 – 13.55 – Arkle Chase latest odds and tips
March 16 – 15.05 – Champion Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 17 – 13.20 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 17 – 13.55 – Festival Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips
March 17 – 15.05 – Queen Mother Champion Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 13.20 – Marsh Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 14.30 – Ryanair Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 15.05 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 19 – 13.20 – Triumph Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 19 – 14.30 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips
March 19 – 15.05 – Gold Cup latest odds and tips
March 19 – 16.15 – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase latest odds and tips
*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.
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