Horse racing will continue to be staged despite new lockdown

Racing is to continue in Britain despite the announcement of new national lockdowns in England and Scotland.

Imperial performance: David Bass celebrates winning Cheltenham’s Novices’ Handicap Chase on Imperial Aura. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

The first national lockdown in March saw all professional sport suspended, with racing able to successfully recommence on June 1 behind closed doors and under strict protocols.

It has continued since then among the tiered restrictions in place across the country, and the British Horseracing Authority confirmed that would remain the case.

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A statement from the BHA read: “Following this evening’s broadcast, we can confirm racing will continue behind closed doors during the upcoming national lockdown.

Rolling back the years: Seeyouatmidnight ridden by Ryan Mania clear the last to win The Unibet Veterans' Handicap Chase at Sandown. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire.

“Attendance will be limited to those essential to the staging of fixtures and strict adherence to British racing’s Covid-19 protocols will continue to be required for all who attend.”

Earlier in the day a lockdown was announced in Scotland by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, but Scottish Racing – the body which represents Ayr, Hamilton Park, Kelso, Musselburgh, which is due to race on Thursday, and Perth - moved to allay any fears.

A tweet from Scottish Racing read: “Following today’s announcement that Scotland is to re-enter full Covid restrictions, @ScotGov has confirmed that racing in Scotland can continue behind closed doors.”

On the track, Cheltenham Festival hero Imperial Aura is the star name among 11 entries for the Unibet Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

Kim Bailey’s charge won the now defunct novices’ handicap chase at Prestbury Park in March and has continued in the same vein this term – winning the Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle before impressing in the Grade Two 1965 Chase at Ascot.

The eight-year-old disputes ante-post favouritism with last year’s winner Min for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and will be well fancied to enhance his claims in this weekend’s two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two contest.

Nicky Henderson has entered 2019 winner Top Notch, as well as Mengli Khan and Mister Fisher, who won the rescheduled Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham on his latest appearance.

Paul Nicholls saddled Frodon to win 12 months ago and could this year be represented by Master Tommytucker.

Other hopefuls include the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Riders Onthe Storm, Ann Hamilton’s stable star Nuts Well and Tom George’s Peterborough Chase third Clondaw Castle.

Nine horses are in contention for the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle, which was saved and switched from the abandoned New Year’s Day fixture at Cheltenham.

George’s Summerville Boy could bid for back-to-back victories in the race, Bailey has entered Long Walk Hurdle fourth Younevercall, Nicholls could run McFabulous and Thomas Darby may represent Olly Murphy.

Paul Webber’s Cheltenham Festival winner Indefatigable also features.

The Unibet Lanzarote Hurdle is a race with plenty of history. An entry of 31 includes four Henderson inmates in Call Me Lord, Champagne Platinum, Glynn and The Cashel Man, while Nicholls has an interesting pair in Solo and Amour De Nuit.

Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls’ duo of Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge remain at the head of the weights for Saturday’s rescheduled Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Yala Enki has been third in the race for the past two seasons and is on a career-high handicap mark after a stirring comeback at Cheltenham when narrowly denied by Ramses De Teillee, who could reoppose. Yala Enki fell in the Becher Chase last time out.

Truckers Lodge proved his aptitude for marathon trips when second in this last season and winning the Midlands National at Uttoxeter just before racing shut down in March. Evan Williams’ seven-year-old Secret Reprieve has been the ante-post favourite since winning a trial for this race last time out. He carries just a 4lb penalty for that success rather than running from his new mark.

Williams could also run Prime Venture.

Becher Chase winner Vieux Lion Rouge and 2018 Scottish National hero Joe Farrell are the two oldest runners left in the race at 12.

Lord Du Mesnil, placed at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and Venetia Williams’ Cloudy Glen are others towards the head of the weights.

Springfield Fox, The Two Amigos, who ran well in the race 12 months ago, and Christmas In April also feature among 19 confirmations.

Sandy Thomson reports stable stalwart Seeyouatmidnight to be in good shape following his heart-warming success at Sandown on Saturday.

Just a day after officially turning 13, the once-retired gelding proved the fire still burns bright with a thrilling victory in the final of the Veterans’ Chase series under Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania.

“He’s a bit weary, but all good,” said the Lambden handler.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does. He’s won a veterans’ chase and Crosspark (runner-up) probably isn’t brilliantly handicapped.

“We’ll keep both feet very much on the ground and see.”