A week is also a long time in racing. Operation ‘Herd Immunity’ was taken quite literally by the racing community at Cheltenham as 250,000 crammed into a space smaller than the average politician’s garden.
Now the crisis has truly kicked in, the necessary measures have been taken for ‘National Trust’. By ‘National Trust’, I am of course referring to the practice of politicians temporarily banning people from visiting their Grade II-listed gardens. A tactic employed, it seemed, by the racing community.
Some, as much as they protest, were probably quite happy about this scenario. No louty behaviour, Peaky morons or three-piece buffoons to spoil a day with their horses at the track. Those people, though, are the hardcores. The ones who have spent more of their adult lives speaking to their horses in their boxes than in their houses with their spouses.
For most, now that racing has actually been banned until May, this is a complete and utter mare. I guess we should probably look at the potential best and worst-case scenarios for racing. In a tongue-in-cheek-pieces way, of course. Better to get worst-case scenario out of the way quickly.
Worst Case. The neighs turn to Nays. No racing, sirs. I hate to speculate but I will. Some of these courses probably run a tight ship at best, subsidised by gambling. As soon as the sponsors panic that nobody is seeing their advertising, legal battles ensue.
All revenues evaporate, and then all the other bad stuff happens. The government “wash their hands” of the situation and allow for the inevitable demise of all racecourses and, ultimately, racing. Fitzdares remodels itself as a London men’s finishing school.
The Grand National drifts into the abyss and is described in the year 3020 by a history teacher as a spectacle as “barbaric and Gladiatorial” as in Roman times.
Where Becher’s Brook once stood becomes home to a virtual Adventure Park with a Helter Skelter of Horror, featuring Red Rum spelt backwards on the walls, with all too graphic holograms of blokes with flat caps and no socks. The term ‘racing’ is reserved exclusively for motorsport. Yuck.
Best case. Racing reconvenes on May 1st through the Corona darkness. Millions, still isolated with their families, subscribe to Racing TV. Viewing figures for Saturday’s ITV4 afternoon coverage explode as a whole new generation falls in love with the Sport of Kings.
Advertisers, seeing this, invest heavily in racecourses, knowing that when the virus is over, people will turn to racing for celebrations with their families. Pre-sales for the flat season sky-rocket and Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure closes its membership application list indefinitely.
The increased turnover for Fitzdares enables them to offer more fun events, discounts and offers (ok, sorry this bit is shameless). The whole world falls in love with racing. A million new babies are born in 2021 and names like Nicky, Cornelius, Frankie, Rachael and Bryony dominate the list.
Broadcaster Ed Chamberlin is latterly described as the most inspiring Chamberlin (sic) to lead the country in the past century, due to his rousing racing coverage. He becomes as short as 10/1 to win the Tory leadership battle in 2024, despite never entering the running. Historians in the year 3020 regularly confuse Neville Chamberlain with Ed Chamberlin, a la Alan Partridge and the Cresswells, sorry, Cromwells.
The exact spot where Boris Johnson once envisaged his statue outside Parliament hosts a pristine bronze Ed Chamberlin holding a microphone. One visitor who has travelled from across the world pays his respects. “Here stands the man who led the world out of World War III.” Another passer-by, wearing a Fitzdares scarf, corrects him, “No, this is the Chamberlin from World War VII.” Nobody knows, but it’s 3020, racing is still alive…and now streamed live from Mars!