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Cheltenham Festival aims to shine a positive light on horse racing after damage done by Gordon Elliott

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Horse racing could desperately do with an image overhaul after the events of recent weeks.

In addition, the noise from the Cheltenham Festival a year ago has still not quite died down, the images of the packed stands just days away from the first national lockdown remaining an uncomfortable look 12 months on.

It is no wonder then that British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington said of the impending Festival: “It is the shop window of our sport. It is an opportunity for us to really shine and tell the positive stories that are linked to our sport.”

Harrington is no stranger in trying to repair a sport’s tarnished image – her previous sporting role was with an often under-fire British Cycling.

For Harrington and wider jump racing, Elliott still looms large. He trained winners of a quarter of the races at last year’s Festival and, after handing over the reins to Denise Foster, said “he would be available to assist as she requires”, a statement that was quickly deleted amid the resulting furore.

The Irish contingent will once again be strong, including Foster’s runners, although the stands will be empty from Tuesday rather than welcoming in a quarter of a million people over four days.

Peter Scudamore was a 13-time winner at the Festival as a jockey and believes the Irish will be in the ascendancy come the conclusion of the week.

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