The build-up to this year’s Cheltenham Festival has been as manic as ever. On Sunday (3 March) we saw many horses turn up for a racecourse gallop at Newbury Racecourse. It was pouring with rain and the conditions were foul, but it didn’t stop trainers doing final preps with their Cheltenham-bound horses.
Many top horses were there to gallop, especially those who had missed their pre-Cheltenham warm-up races due to the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) updated flu vaccination requirements. It is a huge bonus that we are allowed to do this and Newbury, as always, were most obliging.
There were bubbles burst, of course, but probably better to do that in a racecourse gallop than at the Festival. Phone calls from trainers to owners after their horses’ work were either going to be positive or negative — the latter shattering any Cheltenham dreams before the meeting has even started.
My own phone call was not a good one, as Vinndication did not work as well as I had hoped, so he misses his chance at Cheltenham. There will be other days for this promising horse, but I am sad for his happy team of owners, who have all been dreaming — like every owner — of having a runner at the big meeting. It is like buying a lottery ticket, you hold a winning one until you read the results!
Cash is king
There are Festival preview evenings aplenty at the moment. I am actually not a huge fan of taking part in them, but I will do at least four; so you can image how many Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson are asked to do.
I just feel that trainers have enough to worry about without spending time on a panel answering questions about their runners. I take my hat off to the big players, they participate with a smile and do preview evenings most nights of the week ahead of the Festival. Do they sleep? Probably not — it is called adrenalin, I guess.
It does make me chuckle when you see top trainers and jockeys sporting sponsors’ logos when interviewed. I jokingly texted a well-known Cheltenham-winning jockey, who was on Sky Sports Racing, to say how disappointed I was that he was not properly dressed. His reply was that he had sold his soul to his bookmaker sponsor — they say cash is king!
Over the past week or so, trainers have been boycotting Arena Racing Company (ARC) racecourses. ARC dropped a bombshell when announcing the reduction of prize money in certain races and the National Trainers Federation committee, headed by Ralph Beckett, were quick to start a boycott.
A game like chess resulted, but the good news is that sense prevailed and both sides agreed to solve the problem.
Ref Horse & Hound; 7 March 2019