Never have so many owed so much to so few. Blackmore, Townend, Kennedy, Mullins, De Bromhead and co. gave a nation in dire need of a lift a tremendous few days of entertainment.
A few short weeks after racing was on the front pages for all the wrong reasons, the wheel appears to have turned full circle and racing is now back on the front pages for all the right reasons. People not living in Ireland may not fully appreciate what the country is going through at the minute. Essentially, the publics mood is on the floor, people are fed up, disillusioned and thoroughly overwhelmed living in the longest lock down anywhere in the world. Cheltenham gave people a few hours a day away from the negative headlines and people who never tune into racing were glued to televisions all over the country. From Appreciate It in the first to Gallopin Des Champs in the last, the Irish horses swept all before them. It was a massacre not a contest.
Irish horses brought a smile to people’s faces and cheer to people’s homes this week that’s been missing for 12 months. Blackmore and her weigh room colleagues will be far too modest to acknowledge it, but they did more for their country in four days than words can possibly do justice. When politicians, medics and other’s in high power positions have consistently failed the Irish people and let them down when they needed leadership the most, who would ever have thought it would be racing that gave the general public a huge lift? Cheltenham 2021 is a week where all involved in Irish racing should be very proud of themselves.
If Cheltenham 2021 will be remembered for all the right reasons in Ireland it will not be remembered fondly among the British racing fraternity. They took social distancing quite literally in nearly every race and finished miles behind their Irish counter parts. Hobbs, Henderson, Murphy, Nicholls, Tizzard, Pipe, Skelton, Fry etc. are way off the pace. If I were involved in British racing I would be very concerned. British trainers are buying horses out of the same pool of raw material and they are certainly spending vast amount, but the harsh reality is that they aren’t delivering when it counts. Their champion jockey wasn’t in Cheltenham as he would hardly have had a ride so he decided to go to the lesser tracks for the week. One of his main rivals competing with him for that title may have been as well off touring the gaff tracks last week too. He was completely out of his depth when competing with the Irish riders. One ride in particular stands out, where it looked more like the ride a 7 lb claimer would give rather than somebody who has ridden over 100 winners this season. They were like a Championship side competing in the Champions League. Out fought, out battled and outclassed. The list of problems facing British racing is mounting and it’s lazy to blame poor prize money as the sole reason for poor performances. I love going racing in Britain, the atmosphere at their top tracks is magic. The excitement and sense of occasion of a day at the races in Britain is second to none but this must all be in danger now if the sport stays in the rut it is currently in. I hope they get their house in order sooner rather than later and don’t live in denial thinking that this was a once off. It will be a bigger massacre next year if nothing is done to improve the standard over there. Racing as a whole needs the sport the thrive on both sides of the Irish sea.
Honeysuckle, Put The Kettle On, Mrs Milliner, Coolreevy, Heaven Help Us, among others flew the flag with great credit for the fillies and mares this week. Hopefully at some point in the near future the days of a breeder being disappointed when his/her mare delivers a filly foal is coming to an end. Coolreevey and Elimay’s ding dong battle in the Mares Chase proves that there is a future in racing mares. The reality is filly foals have been almost worthless for decades, maybe just maybe the filly foal will be a valuable commodity going forward.
From a layer’s perspective I would imagine it was a hard fought win where a few results on the final day slightly tipped the balance in the bookmakers favour. The Tuesday of the festival is becoming dangerous now. It has all the hallmarks of the Dublin Racing Festival. Concertista getting touched off was a sigh of relief but it’s only a matter of time before the doomsday scenario arrives for bookmakers on this day. Any layers hoping for a fifth day of the festival should really consider if they want to dilute the festival any more. If I had my wish, I would have it back to three days which would have ensured an Appreciate it/Bob Olinger clash, Monkfish/Envoi Allen clash and may also have ensured Allaho ran in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Now they would be clashes to dream about! I also think the festival as a whole would be better for it. More exciting clashes rather than horses winning the length of the straight gets my vote anyway!
Finally, to all who made the festival happen in very difficult circumstances, owners, trainers, stable staff, racing authorities, Cheltenham Racecourse and many more, I think I speak on behalf of all racing fans when I say a huge thank you. You brightened up our world for a week and it was badly needed. Roll on Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown where we get to see the stars do it all over again.
The clocks go forward next week and the flat season has started today in Ireland, better weather and summer time is on the way. Let’s hope racing keeps putting a smile on people’s faces and bringing joy into their home’s.