Cheltenham course officials are to move a fence on the old course ahead of next month’s Festival as an additional safety precaution.
Feedback from jockeys after the Showcase in October and the November meeting sparked the unusual move, the moving of one of the course’s most challenging jumps by 10 yards.
The second-last, which is situated just after the final bend, has already been moved once. Originally located just before the bend, it was responsible for a high proportion of fallers. Despite its relocation, the jump still caused issues, including at last year’s Festival when Ruby Walsh broke his leg in a fall on Al Boum Photo.
Jockeys informed course officials that a slightly longer distance between the third- and second-last would improve the situation “in that it will give horses more time to compose themselves after they have entered the home straight”.
A statement from the course said that “Cheltenham racecourse continually monitors all aspects of equine welfare and welcomes the feedback from jockeys that has led to making this change.”
The move comes as the course faces scrutiny following the death of six horses during last year’s four-day Festival.
The fatalities prompted a major review into safety both at the track and in jump racing as a whole. A report making 17 key recommendations was published by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in December last year.
The review encompassed every race run at the Festival between 2007 and 2018, involving a detailed analysis of some 5,451 runners and 308 fallers.
The review sparked by the deaths of six horses at the Festival this year has made recommendations for improved safety
Take advance of our sale on Horse & Hound magazine subscriptions today
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said Cheltenham is reviewing the incidents along with the British Horseracing Authority ahead of
It included the recommendation that “Cheltenham racecourse and the BHA [British Horseracing Authority] must continue to monitor faller rates by individual obstacle, in order to identify emerging risk areas, taking remedial action where possible.”
The Old Course is used on the first two days of the Festival — Champion Day (Tuesday, March 12) and Ladies’ Day (March 13).
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.