Despite the difficulties and disruptions caused by the ongoing pandemic, which recently led to a second national lockdown in the UK, horse racing, one of the most beloved sports in the country, has continued to take place. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertion that ‘elite sport’ would be allowed to continue has meant that all the upcoming scheduled horse races will take place, albeit without fans in attendance, as has been the case for a while.
Imperial Aura could return later this month
Of course, Ascot is one of the most famous and storied race venues in the UK, and the upcoming race there, on 21st November, could potentially see the return of Imperial Aura, who was impressive while winning the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year, but has been out of action since then.
He made a superb comeback to win at Carlisle last week, in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase, but according to his trainer, Kim Bailey, Imperial Aura will not be returning to Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, for which he has swiftly been installed as the favourite among various bookies.
Peter Scudamore, who is a well known horse racing expert tipster, has also been impressed by Imperial Aura in his role as an ambassador for Freebets.com, and it is likely that the Grade 2 Chanelle Pharma Chase, at Ascot, or the Grade 2 Fitzdares Peterborough Chase at Huntington on 6th December could be likelier dates for the horse to make its return.
Bailey said that there was a chance that they could have gone straight on to the Paddy Power Cup if the Carlisle race had been abandoned, but having run there, it would be better for Imperial Aura to wait, since ‘he is a horse who doesn’t want to be running again very quickly.’
Imperial Aura 16-1 for Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham
Bookmakers such as bet365 and William Hill have already made Imperial Aura 16-1 for next March’s Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and Bailey has confirmed that it remains the primary objective, as it was this year when he won. At the same time, Imperial Aura’s absence from the Paddy Power Cup means that Saint Sonnet, who finished in seventh place at the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, in his last appearance, is the new favourite at 5-1.
Gary Moore decides to withdraw Goshen
This is not the only non-appearance of this riding season so far. Goshen, who infamously unseated his jockey Jamie Moore at last season’s Triumph while leading the field, will not show up at this weekend’s Grade 2 Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
He has been an early winner, having won his first three over hurdles before the unfortunate mishap at Triumph, but a combination of quick ground and an unsatisfactory scope mean that his trainer Gary Moore decided to withdraw him. He too is expected to go to the Ascot event towards the end of the month. In Goshen’s absence, the field of six will be led by Sceau Royal, who is a previous Elite Hurdle winner, back in 2016. Trainer Paul Michells, who has a brilliant record in the Listed Badger Beers Silver Trophy Handicap Chase, having won it for the last three seasons in a row, and has two horses in the lineup as well, making the event a very competitive one, with some exciting odds on offer.
This racing season has had its ups and downs, and the absence of two of the favourites from this weekend’s standout events is sure to be a disappointment for fans. Nevertheless, with the event at Ascot fast approaching, it is hoped that those horses do recover in time for the marquee races that will take place at the iconic race venue later this month.