As racing fans from all over the country bellowed out the chorus to ‘Sweet Caroline’ in one of the many beer tents at Cheltenham Festival, the song lyric: ‘good times never seemed so good’ summed the atmosphere up perfectly.
Alas, if I were to be told that one year on from that moment the 2021 festival would have to be held behind closed doors, I’d have to switch the uplifting Sweet Caroline for a disheartening James Arthur song.
Questions were asked during the build-up to last year’s Magners Gold Cup over whether the event should’ve taken place, following numerous debates within the House of Commons over the spread of COVID-19.
Many blamed the festival for accelerating the transmission of the virus in the early stages and I’d have to agree, although I too was a part of the 68,000 fans crammed inside the facilities.
There were hand sanitisation stations almost everywhere you looked, but although many glared at them for an instant as if they were some sort of extra-terrestrial beings, they were ignored and overlooked by many patrons and it almost seemed cowardly to use them.
People were advised to keep their distance from one another, but in such an enclosed area with so many buzzing around the bee-hive of the presentation area, it proved to be a rather impossible task.
Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable day and my friends and I even managed to win a couple of races, although the funds we acquired soon vanished as soon as we found the Guinness village.
The town of Cheltenham itself is set to face huge financial repercussions of course, with hundreds of thousands of tourists usually flooding the town at this time of year to pour money into the hospitality sectors of town.
However, I feel the correct decision has been made and the racing community must make the small sacrifice of watching (and betting of course) from home this year.