Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Cheltenham Festival 2020 Should Go Ahead Despite Coronavirus Fears

After Monday’s Cobra meeting regarding the worldwide coronavirus outbreak and its effect on sporting events, the BHA have moved to assure punters that the government has told them it should be business as usual as we head towards Cheltenham Festival week.

Odds Shortening on Festival Thumbs-Up

A horse racing industry steering group made up of horsemen, the BHA and the Racecourse Association, has been coordinating government advice and sharing it with the appropriate parties during this process.

As of now, they remain in contact with government sources as it considers what to do to stem the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, although the industry is now confident that the Cheltenham Festival will not be affected after fears of cancellation following announcements that large gatherings should be limited.

The good news comes as the odds on betting exchanges for a scheduled start shorted drastically, showing the festival now going ahead as being around a 70% chance after betting indicated earlier that the likelihood was closer to 50/50.

This is all based on guesswork and conjecture of course, but this more positive outlook more closely mirrors the wider racing industry’s viewpoint, at least in terms of betting and journalism, which has been carrying on regardless as though the £4.5million meeting was never in doubt.

The betting market on this has been surprisingly lively, with over £1.5million traded on whether the festival goes ahead or not, something that just epitomises everything that is the Cheltenham Festival.

Sport Already Affected Worldwide

It seems all is well at present as trainers, jockeys, owners and racegoers make their final preparations for National Hunt’s biggest meeting of all, but nobody should get too cocky just yet as the threat of government action still looms.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired the Cobra meeting on Monday morning and spoke out to warn that the coronavirus outbreak is likely to escalate further in Britain in the coming weeks.

The PM said it is a problem that is likely to become more significant but it seems horse racing doesn’t need any further excuse after the words “business as usual” were uttered by the country’s leader, and it seems the industry is well prepared.

Wagering has been as hot as ever in the build up to the start of the action on Tuesday March 10th, with the announcement of the handicap weights triggering the betting markets with tens of millions already placed on ante post bets.

Despite the confidence now flooding within racing, Cheltenham being given the go-ahead was never a shoo-in.  This week three French meetings are to take place behind closed doors, despite nothing like the expected 280,000 at Cheltenham being in attendance, while other sporting events have already been affected.

The Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy has been cancelled, while the Chinese Grand Prix has been called off too although much less surprisingly given its location.

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