Kim Bailey on the National, and why English trainers are in panic mode
The sport has suffered a difficult 12 months and Rachael has produced good stories in bucketloads – what she has achieved over the past month is staggering.
She is a remarkable rider; she takes no prisoners as she is tough and hugely competitive on the racecourse, then charming, shy and understated in post-race interviews.
What the two English racing festivals, Cheltenham and Aintree, have revealed though is a huge bias towards Irish runners – to such an extent that trainers on this side of the Irish Sea are panicking that our horses are not good enough.
Irish-trained runners won 23 of the 28 races on offer at the Cheltenham Festival. Then in the Grand National, 12 of the 15 who finished were trained in Ireland.
Thankfully, we had a winner at Aintree with our own well-named Happygolucky, owned by Lord and Lady Dulverton and ridden by David Bass in a race in which every single horse was trained in England. Weren’t we lucky to have no Irish-trained horses to take on!
SUPPORTING THE INDUSTRY
THE racing industry in England needs to look at itself to see why we are showing such poor results, and the lack of prize money is a big issue.
The Irish Government backs and supports its racing industry, realising that it is a huge part of their economy. This is probably why nearly half of the Irish-trained winners at the Cheltenham Festival had UK-based owners.
There is far too much racing in Britain – mostly used for bookmaker fodder – and as a result, betting becomes its sole supporter. However, that is an area in big danger while the Government looks upon gambling as a major disease.
Another major difference between Britain and Ireland is that point-to-pointing is the Irish breeding ground of champions, and no sooner than a potential star passes the post in front, there is a clamour of trainers begging to buy. You can say what you like about what the horse might cost, but the pick of the crop usually stays on home soil, which makes it very hard to compete.
The other issue is that UK trainers do not run their horses against each other often enough, because we are far too worried about statistics; winning is what sells, not finishing second, so we try to cherry-pick the races that are the easiest to win. We need to be tougher.
A PHENOMENAL JOCKEY
TO finish, I would like to wish Richard Johnson a very happy and well-balanced retirement. A phenomenal champion jockey who, annoyingly for him, spent the best part of 20 years in the shadow of Sir Anthony McCoy, but when left alone on AP’s retirement, won the jockeys’ championship four times.
Richard is a hugely popular and wonderfully understated man, who will be sorely missed on the racecourse. He gave it his all and no man has ever retired with so much respect and admiration. He is a true gent.
This exclusive column is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (22 April, 2021)
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