The Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest horse racing meetings in the world. Staged at Cheltenham racecourse during the middle-week of March, this four-day meeting features many of the most famous races in all of jumps racing.

There are four Championship races staged during the Cheltenham Festival. The Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Stayers’ Hurdle headline the opening three days of action. The highlight on the fourth and final day is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which remains one of the most prestigious events in the entire sport.

Cheltenham is well-known for attracting a passionate crowd of spectators during the Festival. British locals are joined by thousands of fans from Ireland, who make the annual pilgrimage to Cheltenham to cheer on horses trained by the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.

Well over 250,000 racing fans are guaranteed through the gates at Cheltenham during the Festival each year. The roar that erupts from the stands at Prestbury Park when the starter send the runners on their way in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the perfect way to begin the meeting. The resulting noise can be heard half way across the county of Gloucestershire.

Yet, as 2020 draws to a close, we face the possibility that the winners during the 2021 Cheltenham Festival will celebrate their triumphs in near silence.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of everyday life, and sport has been forced to adapt. In England, a recent rise in coronavirus cases has forced the government to delay its plan to reintroduce spectators to sporting events. There are currently no signs as to when the fan ban will be lifted, with some speculating it may continue for another six months, at least.

Fantastic events like Royal Ascot, the Kentucky Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting have been played out behind closed doors in 2020. Although the action on the track has been as scintillating as ever, the lack of atmosphere has certainly put a dampener on proceedings.

The 2020 Cheltenham Festival went ahead as planned, despite cases of coronavirus beginning to spike all of the country, and many calls for the event to be suspended. On the back of this error of judgement, some have suggested that next year’s Cheltenham Festival should be postponed.

That’s incredibly unlikely, considering how successful racing has been behind closed doors, and the amount of money betting companies will take in during the meeting.

Everyone in horse racing remains hopeful that spectators will be allowed to attend sporting events by March next year. One thing 2020 has taught us, though, is that nothing can be taken for granted, and we’ll be lucky if there’s even a Cheltenham Festival to enjoy come the spring of 2021.