What a year – from the Cheltenham Festival to Covid to Classics
Peter Scargill looks back on a tumultuous year in the 2020 Racing Post Annual
Racing Post Annual 2021, available to buy here for £14.99
Completely different yet somehow strangely the same – that is how 2020 has been for us all due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is also the theme that runs through the latest Racing Post Annual.
This is the tenth outing for the comprehensive end-of-year package, but no-one would have imagined at the start of this year some of the subjects that are touched upon by racing's top writers.
Punctuated throughout by wonderful images from the likes of award-winning photographers Edward Whitaker and Patrick McCann, the Racing Post Annual is a must for anyone who not only wants to delve deep into the sport they love but also remember, for better or worse, the strangest year surely any of us have ever experienced.
Editor Nick Pulford touches on the big picture in his opening to the Annual when he says: "It has to be acknowledged that there are more serious things than sport. Yet it is also true that racing is an important business and it plays a vital part in the lives of millions as a form of entertainment and escapism. That, too, has been brought home to us in clear terms this year."
Despite much of the sport happening without us there to see it on course, 2020 has been yet another remarkable year of equine and human achievements, rolled in with stories of triumph and sorrow, and with much more for us to look forward to in the years ahead.
The feats achieved by the likes of dual Classic winner Love, the supreme stayer Stradivarius, the electric Battaash and the mighty Al Boum Photo – whose second Cheltenham Gold Cup success is beautifully illustrated with thronging crowds that seem so alien to us only a matter of months later – are brought back to life in extended and eloquent essays by a parade of Racing Post writers.
As just one example, here is Lee Mottershead on the heartwarming day a 12-year-old Faugheen won a Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown last winter: "With Faugheen against the far rail and Easy Game close to the stands' rail, they committed to a duel that sent the decibel levels soaring. No more than half a length separated them at the line. Faugheen passed it in front. People cheered. People sprinted to the winner's enclosure. People sprinted and cheered at the same time. It was absolutely marvellous."
The stellar achievements of jockeys Tom Marquand, Hollie Doyle, Jim Crowley, Brian Hughes and Paul Townend are also visited on the journey through 2020, while Richard Forristal reflects on the legendary Barry Geraghty, who bowed out of the saddle in July after a final blaze of glory at Cheltenham.
The craziness, chaos and uncertainty caused by Covid-19 also features, as you would expect, in a series of fascinating snapshots charting a most unusual period in the history of British and Irish racing.
Mottershead sums up the ongoing impact of the coronavirus on the sport when he says: "As these words are written it is impossible for us to predict what happens next. Those of us at Cheltenham in March felt horribly uncertain about the future. The feeling continues to this day."
None of us can be certain what 2021 and beyond will bring us. However, despite all the upheaval and changes of this year, it is one that has been marked by a familiarity in the racing world that offers reassurance for the future. With the Racing Post Annual, you can enjoy again what this wonderful sport has to offer us all.
Read more Sunday Reviews:
Place bets with seven bookmakers without leaving the free Racing Post app. Same prices, same offers, live video. Every race, every day. Search 'Racing Post App' to download for free