Matt Chapman on epic Paisley Park win, King George travel chaos and whether Hereford should be welcoming 4000 punters
IT'S all gone wrong in the last few days. Hollie Doyle didn't win, albeit third place in SPOTY was a fine effort, Spurs are no longer top the table and just as we all thought Covid was under control a new strain strained all our patience.
None of that, though, will stop the latest Good, Bad and Ugly being fired over to you, while also giving me the chance to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Let's see who has made the cut!
Top of the list from the weekend has to be the epic battle between Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot Saturday.
Both horses gave their all, and I'm convinced Thyme Hill idled in front so a rematch will be fascinating.
There's no doubt Paisley Park didn't get the run of the race as well, so Round 3 will be enthralling.
In March I would fancy Paisley Park to confirm the form, mainly because Thyme Hill is still a youngster learning his trade. But this time next year it might be a very different story.
This was also Coleman v Johnson, in other words Aidan Coleman v former champion Richard Johnson.
Last week I wrote in this very column how Coleman was the 'go to' man at the moment and right at the top of his game after injury.
And while he doesn't think he was great on Paisley Park every punter who backed the horse will believe he is a hero. Good or bad rides are a funny old game!
Johnson is still an absolute top notcher, and his reaction as he passed the post was quite something. An initial loud scream of "f…" was followed a longer "f………………".
I loved that passion, and it just shows what the game still means to Johnson 21 years after he landed the Long Walk on Anzum.
Johnson is always helpful, but wants it as much as ever. And it's not just he has school fees to pay.
Both Johnson and Coleman were a credit to the sport.
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Travel restrictions may well stop Irish raiders from coming over for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and even if there is a way of getting runners to the track if I was a trainer I'm not sure I'd want my staff anywhere near the UK if I didn't have to send them.
While some don't believe Covid exists, and others think the lockdowns and tier systems are a joke, the simple truth is that there is clearly a problem out there, and if you don't have to put yourself at risk why would you?
Covid is almost an anonymous disease for a lot of people. Unless you know someone suffering or a person who has died from it it's almost as if it doesn't exist. But it does.
Don't get cynical about it is my message. Even if you don't care about others – and hopefully you do – at least care about yourself.
I appreciate those going to Hereford on January 2 will call be scrooge, but I'm just not sure that 4000 people heading to the track gives the right impression for racing at all.
I totally understand Hereford – a track I adore presenting at – is absolutely allowed to have a crowd being the only course in Tier 1 in the UK.
But the policing of the public – who cannot attend if they live in other Tiers – is nigh on impossible for one thing.
And added to that, with much of the country in total lockdown it just doesn't sit easy with me.
It's like saying: "We are all OK at the moment so are going to party, even though partying is like to stop are from all being Okay."
As I have said, no one is doing anything against the rules. But public perception is everything, and it will be very hard for the parts of the country locked down at Christmas to then see thousands of people going racing.
A re-think is needed in my book.
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