Given the current nature of things, we don’t know what the rules and regulations will be tomorrow let alone in March.
Only weeks ago, at the start of December, we were welcoming the news that some fans were allowed back to sporting events in Britain. That was short lived but sports fans around the country were relieved to hear that elite sport could carry on, for the moment at least.
The early suggestion is that the Cheltenham Festival will go ahead as normal, although course officials have admitted that they are planning for only a small number of spectators to be allowed on site – or perhaps none at all.
“We’ve been pretty realistic with our expectations over the last few months, but as we get closer to the Festival those small bits of hope are fast disappearing,” said Ian Renton, Cheltenham’s chief.
“We will soon have to be wholly realistic and accept that at the very best very small numbers will be present.”
The other headache may come in getting Irish horses, owners and trainers over the water and to the Festival, with the dual headache of national restrictions and Brexit potentially affecting that. Runners were prevented from crossing the Irish Sea over the festive period, but the hope is that this will be lifted in time for the spring showpiece.
The threat of a ban on Irish horses attending the Festival seems extremely low, although there is the possibility that the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott may have to travel with lighter squads than normal.
And while the possibility of the training behemoths leaving only speculative chances at home in pursuit of a payday after the Cheltenham meeting, you can bet your bottom dollar that both will travel mob handed if/when allowed to.
Al Boum Photo Confirmed for Gold Cup Hat-Trick
You have to go back to the turn of the new millennium, and the incomparable Best Mate, to find the last time that a horse won three consecutive editions of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Indeed, that feat has only been achieved by three horses: Arkle (1964-66), Cottage Rake (1948-50) and Golden Miller (1932-36), so whilst unbeknownst to him Al Boum Photo is currently standing on the edge of history as he seeks his own unique hat-trick.
Consequently, trainer Willie Mullins is desperate to get him over for the Friday of the Festival, and the indications are that he will do exactly that – red tape permitting – after confirming the nine-year-old among 41 early entries into the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Mullins will also lead Kemboy, Melon and Castlebawn West into battle for the meeting’s flagship renewal, while his Irish rival Gordon Elliott looks set to point a nap hand of hopefuls – Samcro, Presenting Percy, Delta Work, Battleoverdoyen and Shattered Love – at the big one.
Al Boum Photo will renew hostilities with Santini, the horse he beat by just a neck in last year’s edition of the Gold Cup, with Nicky Henderson also hoping to saddle former Cheltenham hero Champ and Terrefort in the Friday headliner.
What a story it would be if Bryony Frost and Frodon could land the biggest win of them all – Paul Nicholls has entered the popular stayer into the Gold Cup alongside Cyrname, Real Steel and Master Tommytucker.
Other eye-catching entries include A Plus Tard and Minella Indo from Henry de Bromhead, Lostintranslation – who was third last year – and former Gold Cup champion Native River.