Matt Chapman on racing continuing in lockdown, the threat to Irish runners at Cheltenham and some early Festival bankers

SO here we are. A third lockdown on the back of the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, but racing carries on.

So, who or what has made it to my latest Good, Bad & Ugly column. Let's find out…

Good

The chances are if you read this column (and some do by the way, you are not alone) then you love horse racing.

After all, what I try and do is just bring up one or two thoughts about the game that might make you think a bit, whether you respect or agree with them or not. 

So, I hope you will forgive me if this sounds a little selfish, but boy was it incredible news that horse racing was allowed to continue as an elite sport when Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked us all down again on Monday evening. 

From a personal point of view of course I am relieved as it means I can put bread on the table. But for those of you who love this great sport it's so much more important than that.

Racing happens every day and thus gives its fans something to look forward to every day. I know my old mum gets her paper each morning and studies the runners.

It gives her something to concentrate on and that will be the same for many of you. 

No one in racing should moan about anything at present. We know prize-money is rubbish. We know owners are hating not going to see their horses. We know racegoers are being denied their much-loved trips to the tracks. We know TV crews would love more access.

We know it's not perfect in any ways and finances are going to be pushed to limits in every area. But we are racing. Be thankful.

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Bad

The Cheltenham Festival without crowds is one thing, but as I have stated above at least we are racing so no moaning from this column. 

However, a Cheltenham Festival without Irish raiders would be a disaster. 

Those in charge in Ireland seem confident that despite Brexit issues Irish horses – trained by the likes of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead that are currently struggling to come to the UK – will have no problem heading over in March. 

Only time will tell, but some clarity is needed as soon as possible. 

One thing I am sure of is bookmakers will refund any ante-post stakes on horses that don't make it due to either Covid or Brexit, so to you punters out there you should be safe.

Certainly if any bookmaker didn't do that this column would be going crazy!

Ugly

Any horse who takes on Shishkin at Cheltenham is going to get beaten up bad. That's the truth. You know it, I know it, Shishkin knows it and all other trainers know it. It will be ugly.

Never have I been so sure that a novice is the most talented horse in the UK than I am with this boy. In fact, providing Irish horses are allowed over, who can possibly see Shishkin, Envoi Allen and Monkfish mopping up the three novice chases at Cheltenham in March. I can't. 

The worry is that everyone else will think the same and try and go a handicap or National Hunt Chase route. All three could end up with near walkovers for Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins.   

Mind you, it's Cheltenham, and there are usually some people who will accept that it's jumps racing and accidents can happen and horses can have off days.

That said, they would all three have to have the worst bout of Covid any horse has ever had to cope with. 

Keep smiling people. One day there will be freedom and we will rejoice once again. And we will smile and the good times will be upcoming not mere memories.

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