There aren’t many sports that have been hit harder by the outbreak of COVID-19 than horse racing. Some of the biggest events on the racing calendar have already been lost, while some remain hanging by the thinnest of tightropes.
Racing continues to take place in Australia, the USA and various parts of Europe, but not all countries have been as fortunate. The lucrative industry has been hit as most of businesses have, even though online gambling seems to be on the rise due to the self-quarantine inflicted to millions of people.
However, which events on the horse racing calendar have been lost, which ones have face criticism, and which have been re-arranged for a later date?
Few would argue against the Kentucky Derby being the biggest race of the year, and it is huge for the American industry. That is highlighted by the amount of money that is gambled on the race day, with the 2019 event eclipsing records. The 14-race card saw over $227.5 million gambled, while the Kentucky Derby itself saw around $150 million worth of bets. The Kentucky Derby is the most attended event on the US racing calendar, and that meant that cancelling the event altogether wasn’t an option.
Instead, for the first time this year, the Kentucky Derby will be taking place as the final event of the Triple Crown as opposed to the first. The event was cancelled in March, as it was revealed that it would instead take place on the 5th September. Nonetheless, you can still place your bets on the Kentucky Derby through Twinspires.com.
This marks the first time since 1945 that the event has been suspended. The Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes are still slated to go ahead on their original dates.
The Grand National
The most lucrative betting day in the United Kingdom didn’t go ahead as planned for the first time since the Second World War. The decision to cancel the event meant that the betting industry in the UK lost half a billion pounds, while Tiger Roll missed his opportunity at making history by becoming the first horse to win three successive Grand Nationals.
The horse racing industry did still put a show on for racing fans however on Grand National day on the 4th April, as a virtual race was broadcast, with all proceeds going towards the NHS. The event raised £2.6 million for the service, while the virtual race was won by Potters Corner.
Just a few weeks before the Aintree Festival, there was the Cheltenham Festival, which is the most prestigious jumps festival of the year. That event went ahead as planned, but organisers have already drawn criticism for their decision to do so. There were reported symptoms shown by some that attended; including Andrew Parker Bowles.
However, the Jockey Club reiterated that they accurately followed all the guidelines that were put in place by the British government at the time. The Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday 13th March was the final noteworthy sporting event to take place in the UK as the Premier League announced that it would be suspending fixtures on the same day.
The biggest flat festival of the season in the UK is still planning to go ahead as planned, but this year it will take place behind closed doors. The event is famous for those attending to get dressed up smart, while Queen Elizabeth has been known to visit most days. The festival is due to begin on the 16th June, but the announcement that it would be taking place behind closed doors was made on the 7th April.
The organisers admitted that they were pressing ahead with the event, but no spectators would be able to attend. However, the statement released also admits that there is still a chance that the event may not take place at all. The organisers will have to follow the guidelines by the British government and the BHA, who have currently suspended all racing in Britain until the end of April.0